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Chaos Fic: If the Fates Allow 1/2

December 15th, 2011 (12:02 pm)

Title: If the Fates Allow (And Even if They Don’t)

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: For blackdog_lz who understands the power of good whump and never ceases to impress me with her awesome English as a second language skills :) I also owe her quite a bit for helping me get a hold of the movie Phoenix Blue and fueling my ongoing James Murray obsession. Beta provided by geminigrl11.

Summary: “It doesn’t seem right, is all. A mission on Christmas.”



-o-

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
Next year all our troubles will be miles away

Once again as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more.

Some day soon we all will be together
If the Fates allow
Until then we'll have to muddle through some how.
so have yourself a merry little Christmas now


-o-

Rick loves Christmas. He loves the decorations and the music. He loves shopping for gifts and making eggnog. He watches Christmas specials on TV and takes the time to wrap all his presents with bows and ribbons, just for effect.

When his first December at the Agency rolls around, he can’t help but put out the little snow globe his mother gave him last year. There are four little figures inside and two are ice skating while another builds a snowman. The last is decorating a tree in the scene. When Rick winds it, the melody that plays is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Billy sings along and Michael endures it with a quizzical lift of his brow. Casey scowls and says, “That offends my personal belief system.”

“Oh?” Rick asks. “You don’t celebrate Christmas?”

Casey glares. “No, I don’t celebrate stupidity,” he snaps. “So if you play it again, I make no promises as to the nature of my actions.”

-o-

Rick shops for his family, buying his mother a sweater he thinks she’ll like while picking up a new video game for his brother. He buys a necklace for Adele and for some reason, the package of multi-colored dress socks is a must for Billy.

With something for Billy, he figures the latest bestseller will do for Michael, but he’s stumped when it comes to Casey. He finally settles on new pocketknife, decked out with all the stops, because he’d lost his last one on their mission to Denmark.

Besides, even if Christmas won’t make Casey smile, Rick figures weaponry might.

-o-

For the most part, the mission sounds fine.

“We’ll land in Canada, posing as oil prospectors for a large firm,” Michael explains. “That should give us ample access to the area where the drug runners seem to be setting up camp.”

“And the reason our not-so-friendly drug runners are setting up shop in a frozen and remote wasteland?” Billy interjects.

“They’re drug smugglers,” Casey suggests. “They’re not known for their overabundance of brain cells.”

“Ah, yes,” Billy says, shrugging. “The cold might help preserve what they have left a bit better.”

“That and there’s little regulation on the airfields that far north,” Michael says. “They can ship easily to anywhere in the world with as little government meddling as possible. We’ve just gotten intel on a route that they’ve set up to Minneapolis. Several kids have turned up dead from the latest shipment.”

“And I suppose that the cash being gained from this little operation isn’t being used to fund the best enterprises,” Casey surmises.

Michael is duly grim. “They’ve been making connections with several terrorist groups in the Middle East,” he confirms.

“It all gets back to terrorism, doesn’t it,” Billy says, shaking his head in disgust. “Dangerous and rather uncreative.”

“And still in need of being shut down,” Michael says. “Fortunately, it should be a fairly in and out job.”

Billy and Casey nod; Rick shifts uncomfortably in his seat.

Of course, Michael notices. “Something wrong, Martinez?” he asks.

Rick frowns and tries to hide what he’s sure is petulant trepidation. There is something wrong--something very wrong--but he’s not quite sure how to say it without sounding like he’s five years old.

Casey sighs in melodramatic exasperation.

Billy inches forward. “You’re not unnerved by Canadian drug smugglers, are you?”

Rick shakes his head. “No, no,” he says quickly, because that’s not it. “It’s just--” He hesitates, uncertain.

They’re all watching him, expectant. “Yes?” Michael prompts.

Rick can’t keep it in any longer. “But it’s on Christmas,” he says finally, hoping that he doesn’t sound as wistful and whiny as he thinks he might.

Michael stares at him. Billy chuckles sympathetically. Casey rolls his eyes as they all get back to work.

“It is,” Rick says, as much as a protest as an explanation. “It doesn’t seem right, is all. A mission on Christmas.”

“The spy world does not live by any calendar,” Billy tells him in consolation.

“We have to do what we have to do,” Michael says. “If we miss this shipment, we may miss them altogether.”

“Besides,” Casey tells him. “Christmas is a day oversaturated with falsified joy stemming from a devious and frightening form of consumerism. It’s a blight on the modern world. We’re better off with criminals.”

And that’s that, even if Rick doesn’t want it to be.

-o-

Their flight to Canada is on December 23. Before he leaves, Rick apologizes to his mother, tells her that he can’t make it. There’s this new client who can only meet him on Christmas Eve.

She is positively mournful, not even mollified when Rick promises he’ll be back for New Years.

On the plane, Rick feels pretty mournful himself. He watches the ground and wonders about all the people decorating their homes, baking cookies, and going Christmas shopping.

“You know,” Billy says, leaning in next to him. “It won’t be so bad.”

Rick stares at him.

Billy shrugs. “Christmas is more of a state of mind than any actual day,” he says. “It’s about love and charity, being with those you love.”

“Mindless moppets craving whatever the television tells them,” Casey interjects from the row behind them.

“It’s a season of giving,” Billy says. “And you’re off to give your country the greatest gift you possibly could.”

“And you don’t even have to wear a ridiculous red suit or espouse poor eating habits to do it,” Casey says contentedly.

“We could even sing carols, if it makes you feel better,” Billy offers.

“If anyone as much attempts to sing, I will kill them personally,” Casey warns.

“That’s not exactly in the Christmas spirit,” Michael advises Casey from the seat next to him.

“I’ll make it quick, then,” Casey amends. “In the spirit of Christmas, I won’t make any of you suffer for your crimes like you should.”

And Rick mourns for his Christmas even more.

-o-

Usually, when Michael says something will be in and out, Rick knows to take his words with a grain of salt.

Turns out, Rick should have taken more than a grain this time.

-o-

It starts with someone in the quiet terminal asking what Rick’s doing for Christmas.

Somehow, while Rick is coming up with a suitable lie about oil prospecting and how business doesn’t take holidays, the smugglers get nervous and there’s yelling in the hangar and then the sound of gunfire.

And when it ends with an explosion, Rick wonders when it became the Fourth of July.

-o-

“What happened?” Rick yells. He’s pinned down behind a service desk. The man who asked him about Christmas is dead, having bled out from a series of gunshot wounds, body splayed in the waiting area. There are other bodies--the few sparse passengers and service personnel.

Billy presses next to him, firing off a few rounds before ducking back down. “Apparently, they are not open to outsiders,” he explains over the melee.

Michael rolls in next to them, shooting a round before saying, “And apparently, they’ve heard chatter about a new outlet from Saskatchewan trying to move business up north.”

Casey barely pauses as he shoots. “And apparently, we look like drug runners,” he says.

Rick is feeling too overwhelmed to even attempt to defend himself in the fray. “They think we’re competition?”

Billy bobs up and fires before coming back down. “I’d take it as a compliment,” he says.

Michael shrugs. “Would you rather tell them we’re CIA?”

Rick’s not sure; honestly, he would just rather not be in a firefight on the day before Christmas.

“Either way,” Casey says, coming down and looking at them seriously. “We’re pretty much screwed.”

Rick swallows hard, shaking his head. “Why?”

“Because I’m out of ammo,” Casey says.

Michael has just fired two more rounds. “So am I,” he says.

Billy smiles apologetically. “And to think, I asked Santa for a Kindle this year,” he says remorsefully. When Casey gives him a look, Billy shrugs. “They’re on sale.”

Rick frowns, shaking his head, trying to find his resolution. “I’ve got a clip left,” he says.

Casey looks impressed. “Well,” he says. “That’s the best present I could ask for.”

-o-

It’s ammo, but it’s not much, and even with Michael’s planning, Casey’s hand to hand, and Billy’s marksmanship, Rick still knows they’re pretty much screwed.

It takes exactly four bullets to get them out into the hangar. When they’re there, they need one more to take out the pilot and hide in the plane.

That’s when Rick realizes why the smugglers are so trigger-happy. “It’s meth,” he says, looking into the cargo area. “And a lot of it.”

His team falls in behind him, ducking behind whatever they can to take cover.

Michael whistles.

Casey tilts his head. “Someone was looking to spread some good cheer,” he says.

“We’ve never caught wind of a shipment this size,” Michael says with a frown.

Billy grimaces. “Someone’s making the naughty list, that’s for sure.”

-o-

It’s Christmas Eve and Rick is in a ransacked Canadian airport in the Northwest Territories. Several innocent people are dead and they’re taking fire from angry drug runners who have just stepped up their product line to be more deadly and more profitable than ever before.

More than that, they’ve killed several suspects and are currently holed up in their plane. The plane has no fuel and they’re down to one bullet.

Oh, and the rest of the smugglers are right outside, waiting for them to come out so they can riddle them with holes.

He thinks of his family, back home. They’re probably finishing dinner, getting ready for church. The tree is lit and the presents are waiting. His mother is humming “Joy to the World.”

And Rick’s probably going to die. Possibly get arrested, but most likely going to die.

All in all, Rick’s had better Christmases.

-o-

“So I’m open to ideas,” Michael says.

“We’re screwed,” is all Rick can think of.

“We could charge them,” Casey suggests, ignoring Rick’s fatalism. “We may take a few bullets but the sheer surprise of it might let us take some of them down with us.”

“That seems a bit superfluous, if you ask me,” Billy says.

“And do you have any better ideas?” Casey grouses.

“Well, anything that doesn’t involve certain death is preferable,” Billy shoots back.

Michael rolls his eyes.

Rick wonders if his mom got him a sweater for Christmas. Which is okay with him. Rick likes sweaters, not quite as much as drug runners like meth, but--

“They’re on the naughty list,” Rick blurts suddenly.

His teammates frown at him. “Such a pity,” Billy muses. “The stress of the holidays has gotten to him.”

Rick shakes his head, adamant now. “No, think about it,” he says. “They’re on the naughty list. What do people get on the naughty list?”

“A lump of coal,” Casey says. “But I’m not sure what idle superstition has to do with anything.”

Michael nods, though, starting to smile. “They get a lump of coal instead of what they want.”

“So we don’t let these guys get what they want,” Rick concludes.

Realization dawns for Billy and Casey and they all look back at the large stash of drugs behind them.

-o-

As far as plans go, Rick is certain that Michael has had better.

“We make a run for it, turn back before we’re out of range and aim for the fuel barrels,” Michael explains, as though this is all perfectly reasonable.

He’s failing to mention the fact that they’ve only got one bullet, they’re surrounded by armed gunmen, and that any shot worth taking will likely cause them to get caught in the explosion.

“I like it,” Casey says. “Simple, to the point.”

“Fairly hard to screw up,” Billy agrees.

Rick blinks at them. “You do know that we’re probably going to blow ourselves up, right?”

They all look at him. Billy shakes his head. “Now is not the time to lose faith, Martinez,” he admonishes.

Rick just stares back. “But. I’m serious.”

“So are we,” Michael says. “But if we stay here, we’re going to get shot to death and they’ll still get to go about their business.”

Casey cocks his head. “Besides, it was your idea.”

As if that somehow makes suicide a more palatable Christmas wish.

Still, they’re right. The mission comes first. He’s already in Canada on Christmas Eve and there’s no turning back. “Okay,” he says. “One lump of coal, coming up.”

-o-

Rick doesn’t get to see the expression on their faces; he doesn’t get to see the lump of coal, either.

They make a quick run, Casey and Billy up ahead providing a distraction while they charge the line of gunmen. Michael is flanking Rick while he gets some distance and turns to take the shot.

One shot, and the barrels will go up and take the plane and all the drugs with them.

And probably everything else in the vicinity.

There’s yelling and gunfire. Rick clears his mind, pushes it all away. He’s in his own universe, like he’s trapped in a snow globe while the real world bustles crazily without him.

Then, he fires.

The bullet moves in slow motion and Michael is dragging him by his collar and he’s tripping and falling before the fire sparks.

He thinks of his mother, playing Christmas music in the car, singing to “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.”

As the flames singe him and he goes flying, Rick thinks he understands the song in a whole new way.

Any time, anywhere, Rick thinks. Merry Christmas.

And that’s all there is.

-o-

When he was little, Rick could hardly sleep on Christmas Eve. He stayed obediently tucked in his bed, afraid to scare Santa away by venturing out, but he passed the hours staring at the ceiling and thinking about what he’d asked for. And he was always up at 6 AM, running out of his room, waking the entire house to behold the wonder of the day.

It’s been years since Rick got up early, and he still remembers the first year he slept in, woken by his niece, jumping on his bed. “He came! He came! Uncle Rick, he came!”

This year, though, he wakes to the feeling of a warm hand pressed against his face and someone saying, “Martinez. Martinez.

The tone of the voice falls somewhere between an order and a request, and Rick can deny neither as he opens his eyes.

What he sees first is Michael, stooped over him. There’s moonlight behind him and his face is bruised and dirty. There’s a trail of blood leaking from a gash on his cheek and when Rick’s eyes focus, Michael just looks relieved.

“What happened?” Rick asks.

Michael sits back a little, giving him a wry smile. “Apparently our friends didn’t appreciate getting a lump of coal,” he says. “They decided to return the favor by taking us on a little trip.”

Rick blinks and sits up a little, wary of the way his vision narrows and his head pounds. Still, it’s enough to see that they’re not at the hangar anymore; in fact, they seem to be nowhere near the remote village that had served as their makeshift home base.

Given the trees behind them and the vast blanket of snow before them, they seem to be in the middle of nowhere.

“Too bad they didn’t spring for a round trip ticket,” Casey joins in. He looks a little better than Michael, but he’s cradling his arm to his chest. He’s sitting on the ground, not far from Rick.

Next to Casey, Billy seems to be sitting up with difficulty. The side of his head is caked with blood, presumably from a gouge just above his ear. Even in the dark, Rick can see the blood on his pant leg as he twists his lips into a smile. “Bloody cheapskates,” he mutters. “I just hate it when people can’t get into the appropriate holiday spirit.”

-o-

The facts are pretty simple at this point.

The explosion did its job; the entire plane was destroyed and most of the hangar was decimated. A good portion of the men were taken down by the force, although several on the outside escaped.

At least, this is what Casey tells them. He’s the only one who managed to stay conscious for any of the aftermath. Michael and Rick were hurled through the air and unconscious on impact – and had the contusions to show for it – and Billy had been winged by a bullet before getting knocked out by flying debris.

Casey had gotten them all outside, even with his busted arm, but the exertion and his injury had made him incapable of defending himself when the rest of the smugglers surrounded him and knocked him cold.

Then, apparently, they drove them to this remote location and dumped them without any supplies. Not even their coats.

It’s sort of a bleak picture, and Rick can’t help but feel forlorn.

“There is a bright side,” Casey says.

Rick perks up, hopeful.

Casey shrugs. “They looked more than a little pissed when they saw their lump of coal.”

Rick is surprised when that is actually some consolation.

-o-

The consolation is short-lived when they take stock of the situation.

In terms of physical well-being, Casey seems to have escaped with the least amount of damage. His scrapes are entirely superficial and the break to his arm is clean. He’s in some pain but he hardly shows it. They fashion him a sling out of an undershirt, and he seems to be ready for whatever awaits them next.

Michael is somewhat worse for wear; he was more beat up in the explosion, and though he’s up and planning, his eyes are slightly glazed in the night. He’s also holding himself more carefully than normal, probably to protect his ribs. If they’re bruised or broken, Michael won’t tell, but it’s clear that they’re bothering him.

Billy seems to be the worst off, thanks to his gunshot wound. It was in and out through the fleshy part of his thigh, which is the good news, but he’s still lost more blood than the rest of them and that’s only making the risk from his obvious concussion even worse.

In all of this, Rick’s hardly cognizant of his own injuries. It’s not until Casey touches the side of his head that he realizes he’s got an inch long gash on his forehead, which explains his fuzzy vision and throbbing headache. Rick gasps in pain when he tries to put any kind of pressure on his wrist, but after a quick look, Casey says he’s managed to avoid breaking it.

“It doesn’t really matter anyway,” Casey says flatly.

Rick is hard pressed to know why not.

Casey looks exasperated. Before he can say something scathing, Michael seems to take pity on him. “Because we’re in the middle of the Canadian arctic, miles from civilization. The temperatures get well below zero and we don’t even have any proper winter gear with us,” he explains.

Rick hears the words, but doesn’t understand.

Billy sighs. “Meaning we’ll freeze to death before any of us have to worry about the fallout from our wounds.”

-o-

Rick sort of feels like panicking.

Because his head hurts and he’s cold. He’s really cold.

And it’s Christmas and he’s going to die.

There’s a carol about everything but there’s not a carol about that, and he sort of thinks there should be before he remembers that his team is still there.

“From the position of the moon, I’d say we’re well south of our previous location,” Casey is explaining.

“That means we’re closer to the next major city,” Michael concludes.

“We could always try to follow the tire tracks,” Billy says. “Better than sitting here and dying, anyhow.”

“What supplies do we have?” Michael prompted.

Rick frowns, digging through his pocket. His fingers are already so cold, they hurt, but he can still feel the seams as he comes up with nothing.

Michael has more success. “All I have is this,” he says, producing a cigarette lighter.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” Rick says, pulling his hands out and rubbing them together.

In the cold, Michael’s breath is visible as he smirks. “I don’t,” he says. “But I have found fire to be quite helpful in unexpected circumstances.”

“It saved the cavemen from annihilation,” Casey says. “It may do the same for us.” He pauses, snaking his hand up his pant leg and grunting for a moment. Rick is vaguely disturbed until he pulls his hand back out, a knife in hand. “And this might help.”

Michael grins in approval.

“That’s all well and good, gents,” Billy says. He tilts his head mischievously. “But I have something better.”

He pulls out a pen and Rick is duly disappointed. “I can’t even feel my fingers well enough to write,” Rick laments.

“True,” Billy says. “But this pen will write our letter to Santa for us.”

Rick frowns.

Michael grins. “You still bring an emergency beacon.”

Billy shrugs, clicking a button on the side. “After that SNAFU in Madagascar last year, I’ve found it to be a smart idea.”

Casey inclines his head. “Well,” he says. “I can think of a few other things I’d like for Christmas, but this is a start.”

-o-

They have a lighter, which Michael points out is good for starting fires. Fire is essential for not freezing to death.

They have a knife, which is helpful for cutting branches away in order to find dry wood to start said fires.

And they have an emergency beacon, which, since activation, will have help to them within four to six hours, depending on how remote their location actually is. The fact that this is Canada will mean there are more friendlies in the area that can be deployed, which is the good news.

The bad news, though, is pretty bad. They all have their suit jackets and shoes, but that’s about it. Without coats, hats, and gloves, their extremities are at risk. Though, with the night falling deeper, frostbite is probably the least of their concerns since hypothermia is likely to do them in a rather expeditious fashion.

In some ways, it seems like an appropriate way to die for Christmas.

Rick’s team does not seem willing to talk about that, though.

“We should walk,” Billy says. “We have a trail to follow so it’s not like we’d be blind.”

“It would get us closer to any kind of help,” Casey says. “And we should keep the blood circulating to best prevent frostbite.”

Michael shakes his head. “We’d never get very far, not with our injuries,” he says. “Billy, you can’t even support weight on your leg.”

“I’m just resting it for its proper moment,” Billy counters.

Michael is not convinced. “We’d make it one hour, tops and then we’d be too drained to set up any kind of encampment,” he says. “No, we stay here, build a fire and huddle close. With a fire and body heat, we should be able to last long enough.”

Michael says it like it’s completely logical. Casey and Billy seem to doubt him, but Rick thinks they’re all missing the point.

Which is that it’s Christmas Eve and Rick can’t feel his toes and somewhere in the world, his family is sitting around the tree, drinking egg nog and eating cookies, while the night dwindles away.

While normal people are celebrating, they’re picking a way to die.

Funny, but Rick never put slow and inevitable death on his wish list. Though, in retrospect, painless demise would have been a good thing to throw on, just in case.

-o-

It would be easy to despair, given the circumstances. Rick’s pretty sure that anyone else would.

But anyone else isn’t a part of the ODS. His teammates are not just insufferable, they’re borderline delusional, because despite their desperate situation, they’re all studiously applying themselves to eek out some form of survival.

This starts with making mittens and hats.

It’s Casey idea, naturally, and Rick would be impressed were he not quite so cold.

The process involves Casey, Rick, and Billy removing their undershirts and ripping them into strips. Two strips are to be wrapped around their hands; the third, on their head. Each of them contributes an extra strip to Michael, who has already sacrificed most of his for Casey’s sling. Then they huddle, all of them squeezed as tightly together as they can manage.

“Our core will naturally divert all energy inward,” Casey explains. “So we can afford the meager layer for the more exposed parts of our body.”

Rick frowns, not because he disagrees, but because it hard to undress when his entire body feels sluggish and icy and being half-dressed even momentarily seems counterintuitive to him.

“I have always been quite fond of my toes,” Billy chimes in and he manages to sound jovial, even though his voice is pinched. Whether it’s the pain or the cold, Rick’s not sure.

“We can all sacrifice our pinky toes, but much beyond that and we’d be desk bound,” Michael agrees.

This is idle chitchat; it should maybe be expected, but Rick can’t quite follow it. The concussion is still throbbing and the cold seems to be reaching deep into him now, even as he fumbles to button his shirt back up and bundle the suit jacket as tight as he can.

Trembling, he shakes his head. “I don’t understand.”

They look at him. “Toes are important for our balance,” Casey tries to explain.

Rick frowns and shakes his head. “No, I mean, I don’t understand how we’re here.”

This elicits a worried exchange of looks and Rick realizes that they think he’s losing it.

He sighs, brow furrowed. “I mean, why didn’t they just kill us?” he asks. “Why go through the bother of stranding us in the first place?”

It’s a legitimate question and Rick thinks if he wasn’t so cold, he would have given voice to it a lot sooner.

His teammates look at him with that look of theirs. The one that says Rick’s still the new guy and who dares speak common sense in our presence? Normally, it has a bit more condescension, especially from Casey, but the effect is muted by the stark redness in their cheeks and the puffs of air that come out from their mouths.

This time, Rick doesn’t back down, though. Really, it’s because his neck is too cold to move and his ears are stinging with the weather, but if they mistake it as persistence, then that’s okay with him.

Michael sighs first, breaking the silence. He casts a longsuffering glance at Casey, who purses his lips and shakes his head.

“Because they had just enough brain cells left to figure out that they’d pegged us wrong,” Casey explains. “After I pulled you all out, they put together the facts, realized we didn’t have any of the characteristics of drug smugglers and assumed we were with some kind of law enforcement.”

“I always did fancy being a Mountie,” Billy chimes in uselessly as he wraps one of his hands.

Casey shakes his head in mild exasperation. “At that point, they panicked. We’d destroyed their shipment, had them made, and they didn’t know what to do.”

“Plus, if they don’t pull the trigger, then they might not get a blood trail that leads straight to them,” Michael says.

“And really, if you think about it, most of our injuries are actually self-inflicted,” Billy adds unhelpfully.

Casey scowls. “Yes, but leaving us without coats in the middle of nowhere certainly shows forethought and intent.”

“But only if they can link us,” Michael says.

“And only if they find our bodies in a timely fashion,” Billy says.

Rick frowns; they’re getting off the point. “So you guys aren’t seeing this as a problem?” he asks, feeling desperate about things now. Because it’s almost Christmas and he’s going to die, and without even finishing the mission.

“It’s only a problem if we succumb to our human weaknesses,” Casey says.

“Help’s on the way,” Michael reminds him.

“And I think we should be thanking our criminal friends,” Billy says. “Dropping us out here, while somewhat hard up on creativity, certainly does give us a sporting chance at survival.”

Sitting there, in the freezing cold with a cloth wrapped around his head, Rick somehow doubts that.

-o-

It’s funny, because Rick’s never been a doubter. In fact, if anything, he’s been too eager to believe. He doesn’t think he’s naïve, but he’s persistently hopeful about certain things. Like the power of civil servants and Santa Claus.

Even with this predisposition, he’s finding it difficult to believe in their rescue. After all, he knows his teammates. He knows they are brave and strong, cunning and able. He knows they often defy the odds and make the impossible a reality.

Consequently, he also knows they’re patent liars, each and every one.

So when they say they’re going to be fine, Rick can’t help it if he’s skeptical.

Or if he thinks they’re completely full of crap.

But the fact is, it’s cold – really cold – and Rick’s head hurts, and if he’s going to die, it’s probably better to not spend the last few, miserable hours of his life picking fights with his teammates. He’s pretty sure that would only make his headache worse anyway.

So, for now, doubts or not, it’s really in his best interest to play along, both for his sanity and on the off chance that his team’s audacious assumptions may actually come to fruition and rescue does find them before they’re popsicles.

Therefore, when Casey tells him to follow, Rick gets on his numb legs and trudges through the drifts after him.

Casey leads him to the tree line. It’s not a far walk, but it seems like miles to Rick. His feet feel like blocks of ice, making him clumsy as he crunches into the snow. The movement of his pants against his leg is like prickling fire, and the renewed burst of circulation makes everything ache with a fresh intensity.

If Casey is similarly affected, he’s not showing it as he reaches up toward one of the branches and studies it. He slips a few fingers through the fabric on his hands, feeling it with a critical look.

“It’s an icy snow,” he says. “That will help it burn, but we may have to slice away the top layer of bark to make it work.”

Rick is listening, but he’s slow to process this.

Casey looks at him, eyebrows raised. “I want you to snap off as many branches as you can,” he says. “Focus on larger ones – the biggest ones you can break off without hurting yourself.”

Rick nods; this shouldn’t be too hard. “And what will you do?”

Holding up his knife, Casey tilts his head. “I’ll turn our branches into prime kindling,” he says.

Rick nods again, swallowing and looking up at the branches. His eyes drift to the dark sky, speckled with stars and the moon. He sees his breath puff out, almost crystallizing before his eyes and for a second, he can feel the snap of cold air in his lungs as he breathes in.

“Do you think this will really work?” he asks, turning his eyes back to Casey. “Are we actually going to get a fire started in this weather?”

Rick’s voice sounds young, even to him.

Casey sighs. He looks old, face dark in the night, the shadows elongated by the moonlight. “Even if we can’t,” he says, “keeping focused and moving is paramount to success.”

This is true, and Rick knows it.

“Besides,” Casey says, with a simple shrug, “if it doesn’t work, trust me, you won’t be awake long enough to worry about it.”

Somehow, Rick doesn’t find this very comforting.

NEXT


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Posted by: Moogs (moogsthewriter)
Posted at: December 21st, 2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
CHAOS - Billy

who dares speak common sense in our presence?

Best. Line. Ever.

Well, maybe not ever. But definitely up there. :)

Also, I don't think I told you before how much I love this fic. But I love this fic. It's the perfect accompaniment to dinner before I start packing.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 22nd, 2011 01:41 pm (UTC)
billy considers

I'm always glad to entertain. It makes me feel useful, which isn't so common in my life :)

But thanks! And I hope to hear from you once you get settled back home!

Posted by: smokeygirl19 (smokeygirl19)
Posted at: January 7th, 2012 09:04 am (UTC)

Nice Christmas story...and up near the North Pole! How clever! *scurries to read next part*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC)
chaos team moves

I thought the setting would be appropriate :) Thanks!

Posted by: smokeygirl19 (smokeygirl19)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 08:32 pm (UTC)

I was expecting Santa Claus to swoop down from the North Pole and save them. LOL! Wonder what they would have thought if they had awakened in an elf-sized infirmary with elf doctors and nurses attending them? For that matter, I wonder where they would have fit the tall Billy and Michael and how many elf-sized beds they would've had to put together for them? Sorry, just my crazy imagination running wild.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC)
billy watches

LOL, that would make for quite an interesting fic! If my brain were any better at writing crack, I'd try it :)

Posted by: smokeygirl19 (smokeygirl19)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 08:39 pm (UTC)

If it's OK with you, I'll give that a try...slightly different location and different mission scenario. But I've got that in my head and it just won't go away.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)

Do it! I'd love to read it :)

Posted by: smokeygirl19 (smokeygirl19)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)

Thanks! On it, probably will post it tomorrow.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 8th, 2012 08:43 pm (UTC)

Awesome :)

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