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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: The Play's The Thing, ACT ONE

February 1st, 2012 (11:04 am)
distressed

feeling: distressed

PROLOGUE
ACT ONE
ACT TWO
ACT THREE
ACT FOUR
ACT FIVE



Room service was a glorious thing.

Prompt, freshly cooked meals, literally delivered to him. There was very little in life he found more pleasurable than a delectable meal that he did not have to cook.

Still, sometimes it was lonely to eat alone, but since Billy was shacked up in a motel room indefinitely, it seemed like an inevitability.

And it wasn’t so bad. The food was good and he didn’t have to do his own dishes, which made one less mess that he had to contend with. Plus, Billy wasn’t so bad at filling his time. Just his luck that there were more books and plays and poems than any one person could read in a lifetime.

He was giving it the best effort he could, though.

This morning, it was free-range eggs and smoked ham with a side of hash browns and bacon. The orange juice was freshly squeezed and the coffee beans imported from Brazil.

At least, so said their description in the menu. Billy was skeptical but it was edible, so that was really good enough for him. Besides, the text of choice this morning was Shakespeare. And Billy always had a thing for Shakespeare.

Hamlet was one of his personal favorites, really. It was predictable to some degree – let it not be said that the bard did not like his classic story arcs and familiar stories – but Hamlet’s quest to right the wrong, no matter the cost or the method was appealing to Billy. Heroic in its means even if entirely mad to all observers. Hamlet didn’t care about his part in this. He only cared about the greater good.

Billy understood that. Billy lived that. He wasn’t naïve enough to fancy himself a Hamlet, but there were apt similarities.

Smirking, Billy read the lines, feeling sated from his food. “Ah, well,” Billy said to himself. “I’ll have grounds, I suppose. More relative than this – the play’s the thing.”

Closing his book for the morning, he felt refreshed and ready. “The play’s the thing indeed.”

-o-

Billy was in a good mood when Michael picked him up; he was in a better mood when he settled down at his desk to do his morning crossword. He was somewhat disappointed when his efforts were cut off prematurely by a call from Higgins, but he probably couldn’t despair too much over the prospect of a mission.

If the play was the thing, then Billy needed to know what part to act. And Higgins, sour and manipulative as he may be, could offer that direction better than most.

The man was less than thrilled when they entered, which Billy took mostly as a good sign. Higgins was on the right side of things in theory, but Billy often found that their methods varied irrevocably. Anything Higgins endorsed was often a disaster as far as the ODS was concerned, and he was quite certain the man believed the opposite about them.

In short, it was a perfectly backwards sort of partnership that none of them would admit to appreciating.

“I have a mission for you,” Higgins began.

As leader of their fearless quartet, Michael straightened a little. “What kind of mission?”

Higgins sighed, eyeing them each warily. It was impossible to tell whom he harbored the most distaste for. Michael, for his plans; Casey, for his flagrant disregard; Rick, for his inherent betrayal; Billy, for his unending good mood.

(And, Billy suspected, for the break room incident of 2008, though Billy maintained that was not his fault. Not really, even if the consequences had been mostly by his doing.)

Still, Higgins persisted. He had not become head of Clandestine Operations for nothing. “This team was requested personally,” he said, eyes lingering on Billy just for a moment.

Billy inclined his head, trying to make sense of that.

“Our reputation proceeds us,” Casey commented dryly.

“How would anyone know who we are?” Rick asked, far too logically.

Billy probably should have come up with a quip, something to lighten the mood, but Higgins’ gaze was still bothering him. Because it meant something, something he couldn’t quite place, and he hadn’t yet discerned if that was a good or bad thing.

Higgins gathered a breath. “Maybe you should follow me.”

-o-

Billy wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe it was all the anvils dropping in a classic case of literary foreshadowing. Whatever the case, he was getting the sense that this mission may not be as much of a welcomed distraction as he might have hoped.

Michael didn’t seem to notice anything, though, which was unusual. Casey was annoyed, which meant to say that everything was normal for him as well. Young Rick was wide eyed and positively bushy tailed at the prospect of a mission, which meant that this foreboding was Billy’s and Billy’s alone.

He was trying to make sense of that when Higgins led them into the conference room. Fay was there, chatting with a dapper looking bloke. Next to them, sitting daintily with brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, lips painted pink, was Billy’s anvil.

Lovely and demurring but still hitting him like a thousand tons.

She pursed her lips when she saw him, and everything inside of him went numb. It was a rare thing for him to be rendered speechless, but for a long moment, all he could do was stare. There were no words; there was nothing. Just her.

Keenly aware of his gaze, she shifted, flicking the long end of her ponytail over her shoulder. “Hello, Billy,” she said.

The tension shifted and Billy felt his teammates look at him but he couldn’t pay them any heed. Not when he was still looking at her, studying her, seeing her.

Swallowing with difficulty, he remembered himself. He wet his lips and tilted his head. With a breath, he returned her greeting. “Hello, Olivia.”

-o-

It was a testament to his team that no further words were said on the clearly uncomfortable topic. They eyed him curiously, of course, because few things truly ruffled Billy’s feathers. He prided himself on being affable, relaxed and ready for whatever twists and turns life might throw at him.

But seeing Olivia…

That was an entirely different story.

Billy had let go of his past – entirely. Olivia represented that past. She had known someone he used to be, someone he no longer was. She was a failure for him, someone he’d saved but in all the wrong ways. She had taught him how to love; moreover, she had taught him how to stop loving. If his heart was in a box, she was the one that had put it there.

That, however, was neither here nor there, and Billy was actually grateful when Michael strode up to the table and sat down as though nothing were wrong. Casey and Rick joined suit, and Billy somehow found the courage to move, sitting himself as far away from Olivia as possible while trying to appear inconspicuous.

It didn’t actually matter, though. She still watched him and Billy felt himself blushing despite his better efforts.

“So what’s the mission?” Michael asked with a trained nonchalance.

Higgins meandered toward the head of the table, looking almost less pleased than Billy. “Ms. Drummond here is a former asset for MI6,” he explained. “And she’s here because it has come to her attention that there may be a plot afoot that is of some concern to us.”

Billy sat stiffly, glancing at her. Her gaze skittered away, settling with purpose on Higgins. She managed such posturing without the slightest hesitation, and Billy remembered the way she’d looked when they’d first met. He’d been much younger then. Much more robust and naïve.

It was another lifetime. Olivia, however, hadn’t changed much, still beautiful and poised as ever. So much so that Billy nearly ached.

“What kind of plot?” Michael prompted.

Billy tried to focus. For the mission, God help him, a mission.

Higgins looked toward Olivia, then at the man next to her. “Maybe Mr. Tennet would care to explain.”

The man sat up straighter and smiled. “Of course, Director Higgins,” he said, his English accent thick. He was tall with dark hair and a chiseled face. “My name is Richard Tennet and I work for MI6 currently. Ms. Drummond here has been decommissioned with the agency for quite some time now, but thanks to her most recent job, she’s come into contact with some questionable activity that she believes is of some importance to both of our governments. After reviewing her intelligence, we concur.”

Olivia didn’t flinch at the information; Billy watched her tap her nails on the table. They were clean and trimmed, shiny but unpolished. She’d never liked the stuff.

Gritting his teeth, Billy tried again to focus.

Michael was frowning, considering the information. “What kind of intelligence?”

“And what kind of work does Ms. Drummond here do?” Casey interjected without missing a beat.

“And why us?” Rick added adeptly to the conversation.

Billy didn’t dare speak; he wasn’t sure he even could.

Tennet smiled, clearly a little bemused. Billy recognized the implicit arrogance. MI6 was an old boys club, even worse than the CIA in that regard. Mr. Tennet fit the profile, through and through; mostly, he reminded Billy of himself, so many years ago.

“Apt questions,” Tennet acknowledged. “Ms. Drummond is a internationally renowned stage actress with extensive experience in Shakespearean drama. She has recently joined an international cast for a limited worldwide production, the first stop of which is right here, in your lovely capitol.”

It was important information – very important because the mission came first, the mission always came first – but she was still sitting there. All these years, and she was sitting across from him in a CIA conference room. No matter how he endeavored, he still couldn’t take his eyes off of Olivia. She seemed to know it, but refused to look at him. She was intently looking at everyone else, posture rigid as the conversation went on around her.

“If this is a domestic issue, then I’m still not sure we’re the right ones to be involved,” Michael said, and it would have been laughable if Billy were in the laughing kind of mood, because jurisdiction had always been something the ODS had played fast and loose with.

Fay leaned forward to interject. “Normally that would be the case,” she said. “But the information that Ms. Drummond has provided is extremely sensitive, and, if true, it may be a break that sheds light onto numerous ongoing missions we have overseas.”

Olivia inclined her head thoughtfully, tossing her hair a little. She was trying to look certain and capable, but Billy could see that she was scared. Saw it in the twitch of her lips, the way her fingers pulled at the sleeves of her blouse.

“Indeed,” Mr. Tennet continued without missing a beat. “We are quite certain the CIA already has extensive files gathered on the topic, and we’d prefer not to spend time reading in the FBI if we can avoid such a mess.”

“And since we’re working closely with MI6 on this one, there is some jurisdictional leeway,” Higgins explained. “I’ve made some phone calls and while the FBI is less than thrilled at the idea of an operation, I have obtained some form of tacit consent to keep them out of our way for now.”

“That’s all well and good,” Michael said. “But what’s the mission?”

Higgins looked to Fay. Fay looked to Tennet. Tennet looked to Olivia. “Perhaps it would be best if Ms. Drummond explained,” he said, gesturing cordially to Olivia.

Olivia lifted her head, eyes suddenly steady. It was a remarkable thing, how she was able to turn off her fears and emotions just like that. Billy had always known her to be a talented actress – the best he’d ever seen – but seeing her in action made him remember how it used to be.

How they used to be.

He swallowed hard, fighting back the lump in his throat.

Olivia paid him no attention. She pressed her lips together and smiled, nodding. “Yes, of course,” she said, as if were the most natural thing in the world.

Billy felt his stomach flutter, his hands get sweaty. He swallowed again, endeavoring to hide his obvious trepidations.

“I’ve been cast as the lead part in the production,” she explained, looking at Michael and Casey and Rick but not Billy. “As was explained, this is an international effort. We’ll be making stops in cities throughout the world and our cast and crew is very diverse, representing as many countries and ethnicities as possible.”

Her voice was as clear as he remembered. Her face was as beautiful as he remembered. She was everything he remembered. Which was, of course, entirely irrelevant to national security and, consequently, the only thing Billy could focus on.

“We’ve been having rehearsals here, and over time I’ve noticed some suspicious behavior,” she said. “There have been odd disappearances and movements of our props and cargo, and last week I was looking for the right costume and found this instead.”

She reached into her bag and pulled out a plastic evidence bag. Carefully she put it on the table, sliding it toward the middle so everyone could see.

Michael reached across, picking it up.

Rick’s eyebrows went up; Casey snorted. “I take it that isn’t powdered sugar,” Casey mused.

“No,” Tennet said. “It’s cocaine, and very high grade. We traced it to a supplier out of your United States with strong connections to dictator regimes in South America and acts of terror throughout the world.”

“Do we know how this got there?” Michael asked, tossing the bag back on the table.

Tennet shook his head. “No,” he said. “We’ve run backgrounds on all members of the cast and crew and come up with nothing. But given the size of the shipment that Ms. Drummond came across and the stops on the tour—“

Michael nodded, understanding. “They’re using the legitimate production as a means of funneling the drugs into locations around the world,” he said. “Smart.”

“But hopefully not smart enough,” Tennet said.

“Did Ms. Drummond get a sense of how many people in the production are involved?” Rick asked.

“Ms. Drummond is understandably wary of getting any closer to this,” Tennet explained. “Which is where we thought your services might be useful.”

“An undercover mission,” Fay interjected. “We’ve managed to secure places for the team on the cast and crew.” She slid the files across and Michael distributed them. Billy took his but couldn’t bring himself to open it. “With the ODS in position, the goal would be to figure out who with the production is connected and hopefully stop it while also collecting some intelligence about the source.”

It made sense, even Billy could tell that, although he was fairly certain that he wasn’t capable of anything but staring at the moment.

“Fine,” Michael said and his eyes skirted toward Billy but didn’t linger. “But you still haven’t explained why we’re the best choice for this job.”

Higgins looked miserable. Fay hesitated. Olivia looked studiously at the wall over Michael’s shoulder.

Tennet cleared his throat. “Well, Ms. Drummond has a history with your Operative Collins, of course,” he said. “Given how nervous she is about this entire situation, she very much would prefer some familiar faces.”

Billy felt his teammates turn their eyes to him, and it was all he could do not to let his discomfort show so clearly. Still, no matter what he endeavored, he was fairly certain they could still see it anyway.

They were curious. They were knowing.

And yet, they still seemed to take pity on him, as only real mates could.

Michael nodded curtly. “Okay then,” he said, closing the file and sitting back in his seat. “Let’s do this, then.”

Tennet smiled. “Brilliant,” he said. “I look forward to it.”

Olivia’s face flushed red even as she kept her head high. Her eyes turned to Billy, meeting his gaze. There was something there, so much there, but then she looked away.

Billy shifted. They all made it sound so straightforward. So simple.

Problem was, nothing was simple. Not with MI6 and certainly not with Olivia Drummond.

-o-

No one said anything until they were back in their office. Billy tried his best to show no emotion, tried to sit down at his desk and dutifully get to work, but no one seemed to buy it. He wasn’t sure he expected them to, but it did seem fit to try.

Still, his teammates’ curiosity was clearly unrelenting. Rick couldn’t keep his eyes off Billy. Even Casey’s gaze was pointed.

But it was Michael who spoke. “You sure you’re okay with this?”

Billy shrugged with too much affectation, but it was his best and likely only coping device at this point. “I’m perfectly suited for the stage,” Billy said, choosing to focus on the question they weren’t asking.

“We’re not worried about your cover,” Casey said blandly.

Billy lifted his eyebrows. “What about your own?” he asked back, trying redirection to buy himself some time. “I’m not sure you three fully appreciate the demands of working on a real life production.”

“I’m with sets,” Rick reminded him. “Casey’s with props and Michael is with lighting. It’s not exactly rocket science.”

“No, but it’s stage production,” Billy said. “Something I daresay is even more complicated and convoluted than that.”

“We’ll manage,” Michael said quickly, passing Billy’s defenses with ease. “The question is, will you?”

Billy refused to show emotion, refused to acknowledge the obvious implications. Some secrets were still secrets. Some secrets should always be secrets. “I have had more acting experience than you might think,” Billy said.

None of them bought his pretense.

“So Olivia Drummond isn’t going to be a problem?” Michael asked, quite purposefully now, in that way of his that implied the answer without saying it outright.

Billy’s humor faded and he worked his jaw. “Surely by now you know me to be a professional on the job,” he said. “I’ll do what needs to be done, no questions asked.”

“So there’s nothing you want to tell us?” Michael prodded, but carefully. There was no accusation, just guarded uncertainty. It was more invitation than question.

They wanted to know – for the sake of the mission and for the sake of curiosity. There were few things they truly kept from each other, fewer things they could hope to hide, though Billy had been more successful than they might like to think. Billy always found that effusive jabber had its strength, not only in making friends but in keeping certain things close to him. After all, few people think about all the things one was not saying when one was so set on saying everything else.

And his teammates were not above ribbing. Joking and chiding was commonplace and Billy had engaged in his teammates’ issues more than once. And while Billy accepted the pokes and prods about his somewhat less than illustrious past, not even Casey had pointedly demanded answers on that period of Billy’s life.

So he had no delusions that they knew there was something more with Olivia. If Billy’s reticence in the meeting hadn’t been enough, his vague omission concerning her after North Korea was likely still on their minds.

Which was why they probably knew that this wasn’t a joking matter. Which was why they likely understood that this wasn’t an issue to push. They were right bastards, but they were still his friends.

Because Billy wasn’t ready to talk. Not yet.

Maybe never.

He trusted his team with everything, but he hardly trusted himself as far as Olivia was concerned.

Instead, he smiled with as much gusto as he could muster. “Nothing that is relevant to the mission at hand, I can promise you that.”

They looked dubious.

“And you’re sure this isn’t going to be a problem?” Michael asked, not cruelly and not even in deprecation. There was concern – real concern – for Billy, for the mission.

Billy held his head high and looked Michael squarely in the eyes. Willed him to believe. “No,” he said with certainty. “It’s not going to be a problem at all.”

-o-

Best intentions aside, the day was undoubtedly awkward and sometimes inevitably tense. Rick kept watching him, as if he wasn’t sure what to say or do but too afraid to do much about it. He clearly understood there was a lot more to the story, he was a spy after all, but he did not have enough nuance to suss out the root of such hidden truths, at least not from friends.

Casey’s silence was perhaps more surprising because in their six years as teammates, few opportunities had gone by in which they hadn’t engaged in nonstop mocking. Billy had not been especially considerate of Casey’s hidden romance with the lovely Linda and Casey had been quite vocal in his disdain of neglecting to share Olivia’s name at all during the bonding-under-duress in North Korea. Yet the human weapon mounted no similar offensive, and Billy could only assume that the older man understood that for Billy, some things were simply out of bounds.

Michael seemed most concerned of them all, and though he played it as an issue of mission control, Billy suspected their team leader was genuinely worried about Billy. Michael knew more than the rest when it came to Billy’s past, so he knew that Billy’s secrets were deeper and darker than most of the rest of theirs combined. To think of another unmentionable secret no doubt tweaked Michael’s unrelenting concern.

Billy called him a paranoid bastard sometimes – and he was, truly – but he was also something of a soft touch when it came to matters so close to the heart.

And Billy could tell them. He could tell them everything. He could tell them how he fell in love, how he probably never fell out of love, how he’d made promises and broken them and how it wasn’t okay. He could tell them that Olivia was everything he’d ever wanted and yet one of the most important things he’d lost.

They’d understand, each one of them. They’d listen and they’d reaffirm and they’d be there for him, no matter what.

But Billy didn’t want their pity. Billy didn’t want to remember. Billy just wanted to pretend like it never happened. Because Olivia Drummond was his most successful mission in MI6 and the last one he’d completed that meant a damn thing at all. It wasn’t her fault he was with the CIA – that was entirely his own doing – but he suspected the risks he took after losing her were largely because without her, he felt he had nothing left to lose.

He’d been wrong, quite obviously, about a lot of things. Hell, about just about everything.

Billy had endured much shame since leaving his home; he didn’t want to relive it again now. Walking away was easier when he wasn’t looking back.

So the mission at hand – that was what mattered, and he trusted his mates to understand.

Going through the paperwork, Billy frowned. “It doesn’t say what the production is,” he said.

Michael flipped through the pages, glasses low on his nose. “I think I saw it in here,” he muttered. “Ah. Here it is. Romeo and Juliet.”

Billy blinked. “Come again?”

“Romeo and Juliet,” Michael said. He looked up, taking his glasses off. “You know it well?”

Billy stared, half hoping he’d misheard.

Rick interjected, “Montagues and Capulets.”

“And men fighting in tights,” Casey concurred.

Billy took a breath and let it out. He shook his head, lips quirked ruefully. Of course it was Romeo and Juliet . He should have suspected all along since fate apparently had a cruel sense of humor. “Yet tell me not,” he said evenly, closing his eyes and mustering his strength, “for I have heard it all.”

He’d heard the tragedy and the success, the loss and the gain. He’d found love and lost and he could only hope that he wouldn’t have to hear any of it again.

Somehow, though, he was beginning to suspect he was not going to be nearly so lucky.

“You sure you’re okay?” Michael asked. “With this whole mission? Olivia?”

Billy opened his eyes and looked at him, feeling weary. “Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love,” he mused.

They watched him, waiting.

“So, what, that’s a yes?” Casey asked finally.

Billy rolled his eyes and got back to work.

ACT TWO

Comments

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: February 3rd, 2012 07:43 am (UTC)
Tardis Stephen


Love Billly’s efforts to read his way through everything in the world ;) And LOL for reference to the mysterious break room incident of 2008!

Very evocative Billy musings about love and Olivia’s place in his life. And how even Casey doesn’t poke Billy for info.

////They were right bastards, but they were still his friends.////

Awww – *tackle hugs them*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 3rd, 2012 01:31 pm (UTC)
billy likes

One of the best things about Chaos was the team dynamic. Billy was obviously my favorite but the way they all were together still makes me smile.

And then pine horribly.

Thanks :)

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