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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

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

February 1st, 2012 (11:15 am)
intimidated

feeling: intimidated

PROLOGUE
ACT ONE
ACT TWO
ACT THREE
ACT FOUR
ACT FIVE



Sometimes, when Billy was feeling nostalgic, he said that theatre had been his first love.

Standing on stage, watching the hustle of preproduction, that was almost true. There was a life to this sort of thing, an unparalleled creative energy, existing simply because it could.

Standing with his script in hand, watching Olivia, he remembered why it wasn’t.

Still, he had a job to do, and he intended to do it.

Watching Olivia, though, he wasn’t entirely sure how.

-o-

There was still a rush about it, though: the props and the costumes, the sets and the lines. The thrill of being on display, of putting on a show so convincing that the audience lost themselves to it.

Being a spy was a lot like stage production. In so many ways, his early days at university studying theatre and literature had prepared him more for life as a spy than anything else because spy work was all about creating a character and sticking to it, about putting on a flawless performance.

The only difference was that one ended with applause; the other ended with lives saved.

He wouldn’t deny that he missed it, though. He enjoyed rehearsals; he liked the work.

At break, Michael came by carrying new rigging for one of the lights. He stopped, picking up a bottle of water under the pretense of taking a rest.

“You’re good at this,” he said.

Billy didn’t look up from his script. “I have some experience in the area.”

Michael took a swig, swallowing. He paused a moment before continuing. “You really don’t want to talk about her?” he asked.

Billy glanced up, not surprised by the question. His eyes found Olivia immediately; she was going through her scene.

He smiled, shook his head. “Do you want to talk about why Fay left you?”

Michael had to smile. “Point taken,” he said.

Billy looked at his script again, jotting down a note in the margin.

Michael took another drink before screwing the cap back on his bottle and getting to his feet. “Just know you can,” he said, lingering just for a moment. “We’re all here and we’ll all listen. Even Casey, though he may glare if you try.”

Billy looked up, met Michael’s gaze. There was concern there, not just from a team leader, but from a friend.

Billy smiled. “I know,” he said. “And maybe someday.”

Michael clapped him on the shoulder before bending over to pick up his rigging. “I know,” he said. “Trust me.”

Billy watched him go before his eyes landed on Olivia again.

Sighing, he looked at his script and tried to remind himself what this was all for.

-o-

After the initial briefing, Olivia had kept her distance. This was the obvious practical choice in terms of the mission – Olivia’s safety as a civilian was paramount in this – but Billy knew her distance was more than a practicality.

Billy had chosen to respect that from the beginning. He would always treat her with deference, as long as he had that option.

So when they found themselves alone in makeup before one of the staging run-throughs, he smiled politely. “This is quite the production,” he said. “I saw the list of venues. You’ve certainly done well for yourself, my dear Juliet.”

She lifted her head, eyeing herself in the mirror as she checked her powder. “Well, without the bothers of international security holding me back, I’ve had every opportunity to flourish.”

The words were heavy but not so well veiled. “I always knew you’d do well once you had no impediments in your way,” he said, as pleasantly as possible.

She stopped at that, turning to look at him. Her face was heavily done up, her hair styled carefully. She actually looked the part, a lovelorn girl, even despite her experience. “I probably shouldn’t be surprised how easy that is for you to say without irony,” she said. She inclined her head. “Not much has changed, has it?”

Billy’s smile was small in return. “I didn’t imagine I’d hear from you again,” he said.

“Yes, you did your best to make our parting quite final,” she agreed.

The barb stung but Billy swallowed back a retort. She had her reasons, he knew. He knew too well. “It is a pleasant surprise though, being in your company,” he said. “Though I must admit, it was unexpected to hear you’d asked for me personally.”

She straightened, fixing her hair and smiling primly. “Well, I trusted no one else,” she said.

His heart skipped a beat, and it was hard to keep his hope from sparking. To hear her speak was something wonderful; to hear see her, looking at him, was amazing; to hope there might still be affection, there might still be something—

“You are perfect for such a task, after all,” she said, her eyes narrowing dangerously. “A liar and a true rascal, in the worst sense of the word, of course.”

He should have seen that coming. He certainly deserved it. Still, it hurt. “Oh, Olivia,” he said, letting his disappointment show for humor and not pain. “That’s not entirely fair now, is it?”

She lifted her eyebrows. “Really?” she asked with bitter accusation. “You mean you didn’t tell me that you loved me, that you would give up everything for me, and then leave me with nothing but a broken heart?”

Billy’s stomach churned, the blood rushing to his head. The humor faded but he didn’t let his gaze waver. “I’m sorry for that,” he said, and he wanted her to believe him, needed her to believe him. “More than you know.”

Her look turned cold. “I don’t need your apologies,” she said. “I just need you to finish this mission and leave me alone so I can get back to work.”

With that, she left, and Billy felt his resolve buckle. He deserved this; he deserved so much more for what he’d done. And he had to think – he had to wonder – if this is how she felt all those years ago. Alone and rejected, knowing the obvious reasons why but thinking there had to be something more.

Knowing there had to be something more.

-o-

Feelings aside, Billy still had a job to do.

And as far as jobs went, this was one of the better ones. He always had a special affection for the Bard and speaking lines of such brilliance made him feel like more than he was.

Still, it was rather off putting to be cast as Benvolio. Benvolio had been the chosen part for several reasons. First, he was in enough scenes to demand Billy’s presence on set most of the time. And second, he wasn’t central enough to the play that Billy might actually risk too much exposure or put the production at jeopardy for his lack of professional acting credentials.

And it wasn’t that Billy needed to be the hero, but he just never fancied himself to be quite so meek. True, Benvolio drew a sword when necessary and Billy did prefer to talk his way out of a fight rather than coming to blows, but there was something disconcerting about it nonetheless. It probably didn’t help that most productions picked scrawny, nothing actors in the role, and Billy still had a semblance of pride left.

Playing opposite Mercutio didn’t help; the man was energetic and virile, about Billy’s age, and the contrast aptly drove the point home. While he ranted and raved, practically spitting in his enthusiasm, Billy had to stand to the side and gawk. “Am I such a fellow?” he asked on cue, with such genuine uncertainty and surprise.

Mercutio scoffed and launched into his next diatribe.

Off stage, Olivia lifted her chin, shook her head, and implicitly agreed.

-o-

The first break came from Casey, when loading the new lights.

“We get new shipments almost every day,” he reported one night after work. “And most of it goes straight to the workroom to be processed except for a few packages, which always get funneled through directly to the stage assistant.”

Rick frowned. “The Frenchman?”

Casey nodded. “He definitely takes charge of them,” he said.

Michael looked serious. “I’ll have Fay pull his background, see what we can find.”

“We’ll need to find out if he’s working with anyone,” Casey said.

“And we need to find out what he plans to do with them,” Rick said.

“Right now they’re stored in the lockup behind the stage,” Casey said. “Very restricted access, but if they’re pulling in a few packages every day, then they’re going to have a pretty good stash by the time the show opens.”

“And we still don’t know if they want to distribute domestically or transfer overseas,” Rick said.

Billy sighed, chuckling a little.

Michael looked at him curiously. “Something funny?”

“No, no,” Billy said. “Just appreciating the drama of it all. The play behind the play; somehow, I imagine Shakespeare would approve.”

“Shakespeare didn’t write about international drug smuggling,” Casey returned plaintively.

“No,” Billy said, still smiling. “But I imagine if he’d been around today, he’d enjoy it quite a lot.”

-o-

It was all hands on deck, ears to the floor, jumping in with both feet. The mission timeline was tight – just a week until opening night and then another three days until everything was shipped out to the next stop in South Africa.

Billy did his best to stay focused, though it was hard with so much poetry and Olivia to distract him. But still, he’d started a rapport with the stage assistant, knowing too well that such men aspired to more and often felt abused.

They took kindly to pity; they also never turned away a free cup of coffee.

With that, the man was almost an instant friend. Billy found him a less than enjoyable companion – quite prone to complaining. It almost made him miss Casey’s dour disposition.

Still, one man in his time would play many parts, and Billy made a point to excel at them all.

They were seated together, drinking said coffee, watching while the cast struggled through the masked ball.

“I wouldn’t even tolerate this kind of acting,” Pierre said. “I was told I would have an important directorial input but I’ve been nothing but a lackey.”

“I know how you feel,” Billy commiserated, watching as Romeo fumbled to hold his mask and say his lines simultaneously. “Years of study and on stage work and I lose out on Romeo to him. I’ve had Romeo’s lines memorized and perfected since grammar school.”

Pierre snorted. “He was the only actor from Turkey to audition; we practically had to give it to him.”

Billy rolled his eyes derisively. “And the entire thing suffers because of it,” he said conspiratorially.

“Well, almost everything,” Pierre said. “Juliet’s amazing, isn’t she?”

Billy watched as Olivia responded flawlessly, speaking her lines so naturally and moving so effortlessly. She was Juliet, even opposite Romeo’s bumbling.

She was breathtaking.

Until Romeo almost impaled her on his sword.

“No, no, no!” the director yelled. “Just – no!”

The actors all fell from their facades, and Romeo’s face scrunched up. “This costume is ridiculous!”

“It’s classic Shakespearean costuming,” Olivia said.

“It’s ridiculous!” he said again, flinging his hands up.

“You agreed to this when you signed on!” the director said.

“I quit!” the man yelled and stalked off the stage.

Everyone stared. Olivia looked indignant. The director gaped. “But -- I need my Romeo!” he called after him. When he didn’t come back, the director turned back to the stage. “Great, and now what will we do?”

Pierre’s face split into a grin and Billy suddenly realized what was going to happen. “No, no,” he tried to say, but it was too late.

Pierre was on his feet. “I think I have an idea!”

-o-

Billy had been a bit embarrassed at the suggestion, but once he was onstage, it really did seem like an idea worth having. Not only was Romeo’s part more interesting than Benvolio, but this would solidify a bond between himself and the disenchanted Pierre, which could only further facilitate the mission’s goals.

Plus, it meant he got to work with Olivia.

He had promised himself from the start to give her the distance she desired, but standing face to face with her, he couldn’t help but be excited.

“Okay, okay,” the director said. “Romeo, you start us off!”

It was the only cue Billy needed. Everything faded; the world narrowed. There was just he and Olivia, Romeo and Juliet.

He took her hand in his, looking fervently into her eyes.

“If I profane with my unworthiest hand,” he started, gripping it tight. “This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”

And he lifted her hand, pressing his lips to it. She was warm and familiar, and he felt her start at the contact, as though it was the first time all over again.

Her lines didn’t matter; his lines didn’t matter. Their eyes were locked, they were locked, and the affection was still there.

It was all still there.

“Then move not,” he said, soft and earnest as he leaned closer, “while my prayer’s effect I take. Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.”

And their lips met. The kiss was chaste but it didn’t matter. The years between them disappeared, just like that; the tensions faded, forgotten and suddenly irrelevant.

When they parted, Olivia’s cheeks were red, her mouth open. “Then have my lips the sin that thy have took?” she asked.

Billy moved closer, taking her in his arms. “Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again.”

It was deeper this time, and her lips pressed back as they came together as though they’d never been apart.

The moment was suspended, almost magical. A thousand impossibilities and unfettered hopes sprang to life. Countless unspoken desires and unrealized truths coming to the foreground. And everything stopped; everything else simply ceased to be until their kiss was the only thing that was left.

When they parted, Olivia swallowed hard, blinking wide eyes breathlessly. “You kiss by the book,” she murmured.

And around them, the whole theatre broke into applause.

-o-

Off stage, Olivia was less than thrilled. She called the team to her dressing room and before they’d even closed the door, she was yelling.

“You’re doing it to me again!” she said, face red while she fumed at Billy. Her eyes were bright, boring into him with the fiery intensity he’d only seen several times before.

“I’m keeping my cover,” Billy insisted in his defense.

“Like bloody hell,” she snapped back, glaring at him vindictively. “You’ve manipulated this entire thing to your own pleasing.”

“I didn’t ask for this,” Billy said.

“No, but you certainly didn’t shy away from it either, did you?” she spat.

Billy’s mouth was open, ready to reply, but Michael edged his way between them. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, quiet and even. “It is what it is, and whether we like it or not, Billy needs to keep the part.”

“No, he doesn’t,” Olivia said stubbornly. She lowered her voice as she looked at Michael but the repulsion in her expression was still evident. “This will work perfectly well with three of you and Billy can just stay home.”

Billy bristled but understood it wasn’t his place to talk anymore.

Michael took a calming breath and tilted his head. “Billy’s got the best in with Pierre,” he said. “This promotion was his idea. If we want to find out who Pierre’s working with, then this is our best bet.”

Olivia shook her head defiantly. “Do it another way.”

“There is no other way,” Michael said, his words slow and certain.

“Not in time before the production moves out anyway,” Casey said.

“They’ve done a pretty good job covering their tracks,” Rick added. “If someone else is involved, they’re going through a lot of trouble to stay clean.”

“This is probably our only chance,” Casey said.

“And Pierre’s not the mastermind of this, I can tell you that,” Billy said.

“Which means, we need to work on Pierre, get him to expose who he’s working for if we’re going to have a chance to head this off,” Michael said. He looked at Olivia and shrugged. “And right now, Billy’s our only option.”

Olivia was still fuming, her jaw firmly locked. Billy could see what she wanted to say – could see the scathing critiques and angry dismissals. And Olivia had reason, but she had more reason to keep him there, whether she liked it or not.

And that was definitely a not.

Though Olivia could play the woman scorned perfectly, she wasn’t stupid enough to endanger the mission over it.

Sucking in a breath, she let it out her nose and lifted her chin. “Fine,” she said. “But I swear to you – all of you – that if you screw this up, I will personally see to it that your personal happiness and security is never the same again.”

The threat, though grandiose and probably overstated, was clearly not without merit.

After a pause, she flung her hands at them. “Now out, all of you,” she said. “If I so much as talk to any of you in private again, I may blow all your covers out of sheer spite!”

And Billy was pretty sure he’d never seen his team move faster.

-o-

Rascals though they were, the ODS was invariably good to its word, and Billy made sure to be so, even more than the rest. For while he knew that he was in too deep on this mission to feasibly back out, he also appreciated Olivia’s feelings in this regard. Because it wasn’t that she hated him, plain and simple. It was that she had loved him far too much once upon a time.

In this, Shakespeare may have had a point. Life wasn’t about happy endings; too often, a little tragedy was far more realistic.

Even so, Billy had to admit, he liked this mission a lot more now. He couldn’t help it, not when he got to be so close to her, when he got to touch her.

When he got to spend time, just watching her.

“But soft,” he breathed as she appeared in the lighted doorway of the balcony. “What light through yonder window breaks?”

She stepped out, hair down around her shoulders.

“It is the east,” he said, feeling the joy welling in him. “And Juliet is the sun.”

Olivia sighed, looking wistfully away, as though remembering something they used to have, something Billy had forfeited so long ago.

And something he wanted still. “O it is my love!” he cried. “O that she knew she were.”

The thing was, Olivia probably knew, on some level. She had to know, because Billy could feel it. It was all still there, buried under everything else.

But everything else mattered, a lot more than Billy wanted it too. Olivia would rebuff him, just like Juliet, and Billy’s answer was the same when she asked him who he was.

“By a name,” he said, as earnest as he could. “I know not how to tell thee who I am. My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself, because it is an enemy to thee.”

And for a moment, he envied Romeo, willing to throw so much away for love. Billy had fancied himself the same at one point, but time had proven otherwise.

-o-

The sets were still a work in progress, and Billy was lending a hand while Casey struggled with a particularly difficult fake tree. As they huffed, maneuvering the potted monstrosity, Casey said, “So there’s only one person with a key to that room.”

Billy grunted. “Yeah?”

“And it’s not Pierre,” Casey said, as he finagled the item farther onstage.

“Really?” Billy asked through heaving breaths.

Casey grimaced while he hoisted it onto a riser and Billy scrambled to help. “The American on set,” he said, turning the plant so it faced front. “The one who works in props?”

“John,” Billy supplied.

Casey nodded, glowering as the thing screeched the last few centimeters. “He’s got the key and he’s the one who makes sure that no one comes in or out, no matter what.”

The tree in place, both men stood back, hands on their hips.

“So you think he’s our guy?” Billy asked.

“Fay ran his file,” he said. “It was hard to pin down, but he’s recently come into a bunch of money via an account in the Caymans.”

Billy inclined his head. “Sounds like our man.”

“We still don’t know the ultimate destination,” Casey said. “And John doesn’t exactly socialize.”

“I’ll stick close to Pierre,” Billy said.

That should have been that, message communicated, task complete, but Casey hesitated.

Sighing, he seemed annoyed at the prospect of continuing a clearly completed conversation, but he still looked at Billy fully. “You two are good together,” he said flatly.

“Pardon?” Billy asked.

“You and Olivia,” he said. “I can see it in your eyes that you’re trying to make this out to be some kind of idiotic tragedy because you think you don’t deserve to be happy, but you shouldn’t. She still has feelings for you and you have feelings for her.”

It was so unexpected, so blunt, and so right that Billy wasn’t sure what to say.

Casey rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “It’s none of my business,” he said. “But I just don’t like people being stupid when their happiness is so readily within their reach.”

“There’s more to it,” Billy tried to explain.

“And there always will be,” Casey said. “As long as you let it be that way.”

With that, Casey moved on, tackling a fake boulder on his own.

Billy stood there for a moment, thinking. Wondering if Casey might be right.

Glancing stage left, Olivia was there, rehearsing her lines, and Billy found himself wishing he was.

-o-

He loved her.

This was the truth that had defined him in his youth. It had changed everything. She was the first person he could say that about and mean it, down in the very fibers of his being. She had taught him how to love, to give, to create, to cherish. She had taught him how to sacrifice and he had let her go but never let her go.

He still loved her.

He had loved her when his mission with her was over; he had loved her when he had told her it was over.

He had tried to forget. Spent the next few years at MI6 trying to pretend it wasn’t true and got kicked out for his troubles. In the years that followed, his brokenness was easy to conflate and really, identifying one loss from all the rest had never been so important.

Mostly, he knew he could never go back, not to his family, not to MI6, not to her.

But there she was, standing before him now and he loved her.

And it wasn’t just her. It was everything he’d lost. His entire former life was staring him right back, unrepentant and taunting and wanting all the same.

He offered his hand; this time, she took it.

“Ah, Juliet,” he said, “if the measure of thy joy be heap’d like mine and the skill be more to blazon it, then sweeten with thy breath this neighbor air, and let rich music’s tongue unfold the imagined happiness that both receive in either by this dear encounter.”

And she demurred and didn’t disagree, solemn in her ready acquiescence.

The Friar came behind them and ushered them forward for they had forgotten to move. “Come, come with me, and we will make short work,” he said readily. “For, by your leaves, you shall not stay alone till holy church incorporate two in one.”

This time, their fingers were still intertwined when the curtain fell.

ACT THREE

Comments

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: February 3rd, 2012 08:23 am (UTC)
Whisper


*applauds as loudly as their audience*

////Being a spy was a lot like stage production.////

Great points!

The only difference was that one ended with applause; the other ended with lives saved.

////“Do you want to talk about why Fay left you?”////

Poor boys and their rotten love lives...

Hee for Billy ending up as Romeo and all his trials and tribulations.

P.S. - thanks for your PM - will get back to you tomorrow *G*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 3rd, 2012 01:30 pm (UTC)

I had so much fun with this concept -- and the parallels between Romeo and Billy were actually pretty easy to find, especially with the banishment angle :)

Thanks!

P.S. - thanks for your PM - will get back to you tomorrow *G*

LOL, I look forward to it :)

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