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Chaos fic: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

July 26th, 2012 (07:04 am)
artistic
Tags: ,

feeling: artistic

Title: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: This fic is somewhat inspired by the fic Stuck Together by a-blackwinged-bird in the SPN fandom and borrows certain contexts from an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. This fic isn’t as good as those, but my mind kept wanting Billy and Casey in this context, so here it is :) Thanks to lena7142 for the beta and helping this make sense.

A/N 2: Also, I'm currently cowriting a Chaos fic with lena7142 which is being posted on her LJ. Anyone who likes Chaos should definitely check it out: Rack and Ruin . It's not all posted yet, but we'll be updated regularly.

Summary: When a mission veers off course, Casey and Billy find themselves stuck in a less than ideal circumstance.



-o-

Casey takes a certain pleasure in making sacrifices for the mission. It’s not that he likes the most dangerous and uncomfortable roles. It’s that he takes pleasure in knowing he can complete them better than anyone else.

The truth is, though, Casey likes his life to be comfortable. He likes soft beds and beautiful women. He likes good food and rich alcohol.

He does not like riding the back of over packed utility vans, speeding down the road for what is sure to be a bumpy and long three hours without being able to stretch or see sunlight.

Worse, he can’t even take any satisfaction in it because the damn mission is over and this is the best exit plan they could come up with.

He might take some comfort in having a companion for the duration. Someone to distract him at least.

Unless that person is Billy.

Billy is a satisfactory agent, maybe even a good one. But Casey does not take any particular pleasure in listening to the Scot regale him with what he’s sure is supposed to be charming and diffusive small talk.

All Casey hears is wasted air.

“And so,” Billy says, using one hand to motion in the small space they have to share, “this is really quite a luxurious ride by comparison.”

Casey scowls. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Billy lifts his eyebrows. “I’m simply trying to lift your spirits.”

“By talking me into a coma?”

“By reminding you that things always could be worse,” Billy says sagely.

“If this is another story about wild dogs, so help me, I will throw you out of this van,” Casey warns.

Billy sighs with a melodramatic flair. “Well, you’re certainly in fine form today,” he says.

“I’m stuck in a utility van with no leg room,” Casey snaps.

“At least there’s no impending danger,” Billy offers.

“Just impending aggravation,” Casey replies.

“Oh, come now,” Billy cajoles.

Casey glares.

Billy shrugs nonchalantly. “My apologies, then,” he says but his flippant grin betrays his true motives. “But I do believe you’re stuck with me.”

Casey rolls his eyes and tries to sit back against the equipment. “Oh, joy.”

-o-

It’s not ten minutes, and Casey’s mood worsens. He’s frowning again, ready to say something, when something changes.

The speed of the van increases. A lot. They veer. Casey braces himself and looks at Billy. “What the hell was that?” he asks.

At least, that’s what he means to ask, but the words get lost when the van hits a rut and they are tossed unceremoniously toward the ceiling. The come back down in a mess, Billy half pressed against him while Casey hisses in pain and frustration.

Billy tries to push himself back and Casey yelps. “Watch it!”

“Sorry!” Billy says, but the van turns hard again, and Casey is nearly crushed under Billy’s greater weight.

They barely manage to find their way apart when there’s the sound of crunching metal. Casey has no time to brace himself as they are flung hard and the contents of the van move. Then, they’re flying. It’s head over heels and Casey ricochets across the cramped interior.

They turn again, something screeching in his ears, and then everything hurts and Casey, despite his better efforts, can’t hold on.

-o-

There is pain.

Over the years, Casey’s built up a tolerance to pain. He doesn’t flinch at things that make most people cry. He takes pride in this.

It doesn’t make a difference.

This pain is so intense that it leaves Casey breathless, hot tears burning in his eyes and he has to blink vigorously to keep them at bay.

But he does. He forces air in and out, rough, steady breaths. The pain doesn’t fade, but he manages to control it, pushing it aside long enough to assess the remainder of his abused senses.

First, sound. The ticking of an engine dying down; voices, somewhere distant, yelling. Grating breaths.

Second, sensation. Beyond the pain, warm breath on his cheek. Something hot and wet spreading down his shirt.

Third, sight. Casey looks down to see the culprit of the sensation but he doesn’t get very far. Not with Billy’s face shoved right up into his own.

Casey glares. “Personal space, Collins,” he mutters.

Billy blinks at him.

Casey frowns in reply. It’s not like Billy to hold back on a quip. But then he realizes, Billy doesn’t look so good. There’s a bleeding gash on his forehead, dripping blood down his face in a macabre fashion. His face is pale, the skin unnaturally colorless.

He’s hurt, probably worse than that. Casey needs to examine him, needs to—

When he moves, the pain ignites again, stealing Casey’s breath. He gasps, working to stay conscious, even as he looks down at himself.

Then he remembers the wetness.

And puts it together.

He’s impaled.

A piece of equipment from the truck. It shifted during the collision, and the force drove it straight through. It’s coming through his front, poked through clear to the back, driving roughly through his upper chest.

“Casey,” Billy says, voice airy and slurred. “That looks bad.”

Casey thinks to concur, but then he looks at Billy again. Billy’s not just pale and bleeding, Casey realizes, he’s impaled, too. The piping is poking through his chest, running straight through him and into Casey.

They’re impaled.

Together.

The shock of it is almost too much.

Finally, Billy frowns. “Well,” he says, nodding just slightly as he tilts his head to look at the piping. “That’s a bit awkward.”

And for once, Casey can only agree.

-o-

Casey has trained himself to be entirely calm, clinical and professional, no matter what the circumstances might be. It’s taken years to cultivate this presence, and he’s proud to say that he holds to it pretty well, especially given the unusual messes the ODS finds itself in.

Therefore, Casey doesn’t consider the piping poking through his chest to be a frightening and painful reality. He considers it an inconvenience. A problem to be solved.

Because, yes, it hurts. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s bad. It’s scary and overwhelming and painful and bad. It scares Casey as much as it just pisses him off, but there’s no time for any of that now. Because being scared or angry won’t get him out of this mess.

And getting out of this mess is his top priority.

Looking again at the macabre sight, he pushes back a swell of nausea. Now, if he only knew how.

He takes a breath, holding back the white hot pain that threatens to surge. He blinks rapidly and nods just slightly. “Okay,” he says, trying to pull his senses back in order. It’s harder than it should be – harder than Casey wants it to be – and he finds himself struggling to say something relevant. “We can deal with this.”

Billy nods readily, hair brushing against Casey’s cheek. “Such optimism.”

Casey ignores the sarcasm and directs his attention instead, studying the metal. “Looks like it’s some sort of piping.”

“Copper,” Billy supplies.

“Maybe inch, inch and a half in diameter,” Casey says. He makes a face. “That could be worse.”

Billy grunts, face directed away now. “Though I suppose it could also be a bit better.”

Carefully, Casey lifts his hand, tentatively pulling at the torn fabric of his shirt around the wound. It’s hard to see with Billy’s upper body in the way, but he pulls his head back carefully for a better perspective. He does his best not to grimace, and he won’t admit it, but the sight of metal protruding from his skin is unsettling. “It seems to have gone through my upper chest,” he says. He takes an experimental breath, feeling the air move in and out. “If it got the lung, it doesn’t feel like it’s been too badly compromised. Probably because the piping’s still in place, but that at least buys us some time.”

“Aye, there will be time, I suppose,” Billy muses.

Casey is sure this is some inane literary reference, one which he doesn’t have the effort to indulge. Craning his neck he tries to assess the path of the piping. “The trajectory was fairly straight,” he reports. “That’s good, anyway.”

“In these cases, good is highly relative,” Billy replies.

Billy’s posturing aside, Casey turns his attention to the other end of the piping, trying to gauge its path through Billy’s body. The Scot is taller, so the placement is more central, and Casey reaches up to pluck away the fabric of Billy’s ripped shirt.

Billy hisses, stiffening, but he doesn’t push Casey’s hand away, giving Casey the better perspective he’s looking for.

The piping has hit Billy’s lung for sure, probably shattered a few ribs. It seems to be close to the heart, but Casey’s best guess is that the piping has missed, if only just. The vascular and arterial damage may be a problem, but the bleeding isn’t too severe yet, so Casey counts that as a good sign.

Still, it’s a serious injury. Worse than Casey’s.

And then there’s still the logistics of their situation. The crash sent them tumbling but where Casey had been free flying, Billy had gotten caught behind one of the fallen shelving systems. So while their shoulders are not even an inch apart, upper bodies nearly pressed together, their legs are a distance, leaving them both half upright while against the upright wall of the van.

With the proximity, Casey can feel the inhalations of Billy’s chest. The taller man swallows with obvious effort, and he can’t quite hide the pain etched into his brow as he speaks. “It’s not good,” Billy says with surprising simplicity. There’s no flowery language, no obscure references. Plain fact, just like Casey likes it.

And it freaks him out. Billy doesn’t just admit things like that. Billy doesn’t just say things like that.

“It’s fine,” Casey snaps.

“Of course it is,” Billy says with mock seriousness. “We’re impaled together on copper piping in the back of a crashed maintenance van. Couldn’t be better.”

Casey looks at him with a glower. “Am I detecting negativity?” he asks. “From Mr. Eternal Sunshine?”

Billy gives him a wide-eyed expression. “To the contrary,” he says. “Given the circumstances, I would say I’m quite buoyant. Downright chipper even.”

“But still utterly unhelpful,” Casey says with a derisive snort. “Good to see that some things never change.”

Billy offers him a semblance of his normal dazzling smile. He almost pulls it off, but it’s just a little off. “Casey, you sound like you actually care.”

There’s something to that, and Casey knows it. He knows Billy, better than he probably wants to, but such intimate knowledge is not something that can be conveniently unlearned. And he knows Billy’s a liar under the best of circumstances, so when he sees the sudden honesty in him, it’s actually unnerving.

Because for a moment, there are no pretenses. It’s just Casey and Billy, impaled together in a crowded van. Each breath Casey takes, Billy follows. Their blood is mixed. Their fates are joined.

And Billy’s scared.

Maybe it’s the pain, maybe it’s the shock, maybe it’s just that this close together, there’s no place for either of them to hide. But Billy’s scared.

All of Casey’s reasoning, all of his self control, all of his sheer willpower – Billy’s scared and it damn near undoes everything.

Billy can’t be scared. They don’t operate under such pretenses. Emotions are factors they have learned to control, and Casey knows that Billy’s effervescence is as much a façade as Casey’s scowling.

Casey doesn’t do fear. He does anger. And if he’s scared about the piping through his chest, if he’s scared about Billy, then it’s time to get angry.

Really angry.

Face darkening, Casey presses his lips into a line. “I care about getting out of here alive,” he says, sharper than he intends but it’s the best he can manage. “And given our current circumstances, your survival seems inevitably tied to my own.

Billy’s fear wavers, and it’s like a switch is flipped. Just like that, Billy laughs, his breath hot and short on Casey’s cheek.

Casey narrows his eyes, almost thankful for some way to direct his frustrations. “Is this funny to you?”

Billy looks at him, blue eyes eerily bright in the dimness of the van’s interior. “It’s just that I told you,” he says, smiling almost drunkenly. “You really are stuck with me.”

-o-

“We need a plan,” Casey says after several minutes pass. Time is beginning to lose its meaning, but Casey does his best to keep a grasp on it. Seconds are critical measures now, and each beat of Casey’s heart matters more than the last.

“You mean we’re opting to not stay in our current predicament?” Billy asks wryly.

“I don’t even like to eat shiskabobs,” Casey says. “So, no, I don’t intend on staying one for longer than necessary.”

“Well, I can’t say I’d have chosen this myself, if given the option,” Billy says as conversationally as he can even with the obvious pain.

“Exactly,” Casey says, carefully assessing their location and the tilt of the van. “Which is why we need a plan.”

In the accident, they’d been tossed around pretty good, but given the small interior space, there wasn’t exactly far to go. Their small pocket is approximately the same size as it was before, but it’s shifted, and the path to the exit is littered with maintenance tools.

Casey supposes it’s a good thing that the piping was inside the van and not poked through from the outside. This way, at least they don’t have to worry about detaching themselves from the van itself.

Still, the piping is probably three feet long, and with the ends protruding out either side, it’s going to be awkward to extricate themselves as it is. There is some logic in waiting for help in this process, but they’ve just been in a car accident. There’s no way of knowing if the engine has been compromised or if they’re still being pursued by less than friendly assailants. More than that, Michael and Rick are in this van somewhere, too, and if they’re not back here yet, then there’s reason to be worried.

Besides, Casey doesn’t really like help. Especially not from so-called medical professionals.

“Well, I’m waiting here with baited breath,” Billy says. “Literally.”

Casey scowls. “Can you move?”

Billy lifts his eyebrows. “You mean despite the fact that I’ve been forcibly impaled on a piece of copper piping?”

Casey gives him a deadly gaze. “Yes,” he says. “I assume you’re not pinned down in any other ways?”

“I wasn’t aware that being impaled wasn’t enough.”

Casey glares.

Billy relents. “Yes, yes,” he says with an overwrought sigh. He lifts his hands as if to show his point. “No other injuries seem to be impeding my health and/or movement.”

“Good,” Casey says, starting to shift his muscles and preparing himself mentally for the task ahead. “Because we need to get out of here.”

“I’m really more concerned about the piping than our location,” Billy counters, face scrunched up.

“I agree,” Casey says curtly. “But if we don’t get out of here, I don’t think we’re going to be able to deal with anything else.”

Billy looks down, face twisted with palpable regret. “Still seems rather unpleasant.”

“It is rather unpleasant,” Casey returns harshly. “If we try to remove it here, we’ll probably both be dead before we can even get outside.”

Billy pales, coloring going almost translucent, and for a moment, Casey almost feels guilty. But Billy recovers, nodding readily. “Right then,” he says. He sucks in hard, seeming to control a shudder. “I will trust in your unimpeachable judgment.”

“Wise,” Casey says. He wets his lips, looking around. He takes a breath, steadies himself and meets Billy’s gaze unflinchingly. “We’re going to start simple.”

“Simple,” Billy repeats, giving Casey a small smile. “Even a lesser-trained git like myself should be able to handle simple.

Casey nods. “We’re going to stand up together,” he says. “Nothing fancy. Just straight up and see what happens.”

Billy nods rapidly, blinking. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Casey says. It’s his turn to swallow and he mentally braces himself. “One, two, three.

To Billy’s credit, the Scotsman doesn’t hesitate. They move together, movements in tandem, rhythm honed and unspoken after years of partnership.

Still, they don’t get very far when Billy cries out. They hover uncertainly for a moment as Casey tries to figure out what to do. They’re going up but Billy’s body is pulling them down, and the pressure in his chest expands, expands, explodes.

Everything whites out and Casey pushes harsh, fast breaths out his nose. He clings stubbornly to consciousness, pulling himself back through the haze to awareness.

When his eyes focus again, they’re back where they began, seated face to face, inches from each other. Billy’s face is pinched, tears wet on his colorless checks and his eyes squeezed closed as he heaves for air.

Casey looks down. There’s fresh blood on his shirt; there’s more of it on Billy’s. His own breathing feels newly strained and Billy’s ghostly countenance is hardly a good sign.

“Okay,” he says after a long moment. “New plan.”

At that, Billy opens his eyes, looking at Casey wearily.

“We wait,” Casey says, unable to fight the growing exhaustion in his own body.

Billy nods, breathing just slightly ragged. “Aye,” he says, exhaling heavily as he lets his head rest against the side of the van. “That’s a plan I can endorse most heartily.”

-o-

When the door opens, Casey realizes that he’s lost track of time. For once, Billy hadn’t been keen on conversation and the pain had been distracting to say the least.

Still, it’s not an excuse that Casey feels is valid and he perks up immediately, keeping himself still even as he comes fully alert.

It takes effort to turn his head, and the bright light from outside is momentarily blinding. For a moment, he worries that maybe it’s the enemy, but when he sees Michael and Rick, he manages to relax just a little.

“You guys okay?” Michael asks.

Casey snorts. Next to him, Billy’s coming back around more sluggishly. “I’m going to assume that was a rhetorical question,” Casey tells him plainly.

Rick edges around, standing on the balls of his feet to get a better look. “Van’s totaled,” he reports. “The side is completely caved in against a tree. It’s not going anywhere.”

Michael pulls himself in, carefully circumventing the displaced equipment. “We got lucky, though,” he says. “They managed to kill themselves while crashing us off the road.”

Next to him, Billy laughs, a breathy, exhausted sound. “I am a man of many words,” he says. “But lucky’s not really an appropriate adjective at the moment.”

Michael’s brow furrows just a little as he gets closer. Then, he stops.

Rick bounces a bit higher, trying to see. “We may want to move before emergency personnel get here,” he suggests.

Michael is still staring, though. His eyes go from the piping to Casey to Billy and back again. Casey can only stare back.

“Negative,” Michael reports, his voice steady.

Rick frowns, climbing inside himself to get closer. “But—“ he stops short, sucking in a harsh breath as he swears.

“Yeah,” Michael agrees. “I’ve got to say, I thought I’d seen everything.”

Billy smiles. “That’s us,” he says, rasping a little more than Casey remembers, “always pushing the boundaries. We’d hate for everyone to get bored.”

Rick is gaping. It’s almost funny, except Casey’s too busy being in excruciating pain to be generally amused. “That’s great,” Casey snaps. “But maybe we can manage a little less awe and shock and focus on getting us out of here?”

“Give them a moment,” Billy says condescendingly. “They’ve only just witnessed our startling and unnerving predicament. They deserve a few moment to fully gauge what they’re seeing.”

“And that’s a few extra moments I’m increasing my likelihood of developing sepsis,” Casey says. “I don’t mind dying in the line of duty, but I do not intend to waste away from an infection in a foreign country with a socialized medical system.”

“Oh, please,” Billy returns. Then he grins impishly, almost despite himself and his obvious discomfort. “It’s not like we’re going anywhere.”

And Casey would hit him if the very thought didn’t make everything hurt so much.

-o-

“Okay,” Michael says finally after he’s assessed the situation. “I’ve got a plan.”

Casey looks at him, expectant. Rick still blinks like a deer caught in the damn headlights. Billy’s the one who manages to speak. “Do tell, o fearless leader,” he says, words ground out harshly but still unduly chipper.

“There’s nothing keeping you in here,” he says. “We need to get you up and out so we can see what we’re dealing with.”

Billy blinks.

Casey glares. “That’s your plan?” he asks, the accusation in his voice clear.

Michael shrugs. “I didn’t say it was a great plan.”

“It’s not even a plan at all,” Casey grouses.

“Oh, and you’re doing so much just sitting there?” Michael says.

“I’m impaled,” Casey says. Then, to highlight to full injustice of his situation, he adds, “With Billy.”

“That wounds me,” Billy interjects. “Somewhat literally.”

“Guys, this isn’t helping—“ Rick tries to say.

“It wounds me, too,” Casey snaps back because he’s tired and he’s sore and he’s stuck in a van and he’s impaled and it’s really starting to piss him off. “So shut up before I yank this thing out and leave you to fend for yourself—“

“Guys!” Rick yells, and Casey fall silent as he sullenly looks toward the kid. In the tentative silence, Rick says, “Can you hear that?”

-o-

Sirens.

It’s definitive progress, and it’s all they need to focus their efforts. Casey stop snarking; Michael reasserts control. Rick goes out to the street to signal for help and Billy just keeps talking.

In short, things go back to normal.

Except for the piping, of course.

Still, Casey finds comfort in the familiarity. Comfort he needs as Michael first wraps the wounds to stabilize the piping as best he can and then coaches them to their feet.

“Okay, we’re going to go slow and easy,” he says, and he’s hovering close. One hand ghosts along Casey’s back, the other touching Billy’s trembling shoulder.

“Slow and easy,” Billy repeats, sounding uncharacteristically breathless. “That’ll be a nice change of pace from our usual hustle and bustle.”

“I’m not sure that’s much of a comparison,” Casey tells him, annoyed at the tremor in his muscles even as he feels the piping grate just slightly against his insides. But the bandage seems to hold -- whatever Michael did, things feel far more stable than before.

Michael doesn’t seem to hear them. Instead, he says, “I’ve got you both, so let’s go up—“

There’s no counting this time. Instead, Michael starts to lift and Casey obeys. He’s good at this, forcing his body to do what it does not want to do, making his physical limitations yield to the force of his will.

When his strength threatens to fade, this time Michael is there, holding him upright. Casey’s world goes dim as he focuses exclusively on the simple task of standing. On his feet, he locks his knees, holding very still for a long moment before he opened his eyes.

He’s standing.

Across from him, Billy’s standing, too, but Michael has his shoulder pushed under Billy’s armpit. With Michael wedged between them, he’s serving as a makeshift crutch, clearly hoping to minimize any wayward movements that might shift the piping. Michael looks tense; Billy looks like he’s ready to fall over.

He doesn’t, though, and Casey’s grateful.

“Okay,” Michael says. “Now to the door.”

Michael doesn’t quite make this an order, but it’s also not something they’re discussing. Which is just as well because Casey’s not sure he’d have the energy to debate. As it is, it takes all of his reserves to focus on walking, following Michael’s lead as they start toward the exit.

The few feet feel like miles, and the halting shuffle step toward freedom is taxing. Casey trusts Michael to keep the pace, and forces his feet to move one at a time as he dutifully ignores the piping sticking through him.

Michael is counting paces, hand on Casey while supporting Billy. Billy keeps the pace, but his silence is more jarring than the pain.

When the sunlight is in his eyes, Casey is actually surprised. He blinks and remembers to breathe. Then he promptly remembers why breathing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Michael’s talking and Billy’s slumping forward and Casey doesn’t know for sure what’s going to happen.

But he does know as the police approach and a pair of medics appear, that he’s never been so happy to see professional help in his life.

-o-

Casey doesn’t actually remember getting to the ambulance. There are vague flashes of movement, the constant stream of voices, but that’s about it. Not that Casey’s about to admit that or anything, but when he really comes back to his senses, some medic is hanging his IV and he’s sitting mostly upright on a gurney face to face with Billy.

Billy’s shirt has been cut away, revealing the surreally grotesque wound, which trickles fresh blood even as they sit. He’s got his own IVs already hung, electrodes plastered to his chest. Still, Billy’s pupils are blown wide and he grins broadly at Casey. “And you’re back!” he exclaims, almost gleeful.

The pure joy makes Casey glower. “I didn’t go anywhere.”

“To the contrary,” Billy says, his words slurring noticeably now. “I think you took quite a nice little trip if that far off expression was any indication.”

Casey’s frown deepens, and he realizes Billy may be right. Things are fuzzy and the IV site on his wrist is throbbing. “They drugged us,” he realizes.

Billy nods dreamily. “Lovely stuff, too.”

Casey’s eyes roam around the ambulance and he notices that it’s moving. The medic at their side is checking the equipment. “I didn’t give permission for this,” he says.

Billy makes a face. “They don’t speak English,” he says. “But I believe they are unduly fascinated by our somewhat unusual circumstances.”

“You mean they’ve never seen someone impaled before?” Casey asks. “Great. And my hope of survival is almost as low as their collective IQ.”

Billy shakes his head, mouth drawn in an exaggerated frown. “They are consummate professionals,” he says, as if trying to garner his indignation. He can’t pull it off, and the sloppy smile returns. “Besides, they let us ride together. Isn’t that nice?”

“We’re impaled on the same piece of metal, moron,” Casey snarks.

Billy cocks his head, then looks down. “Ah,” he says. “Yes, I can see how that might influence things.”

Just then, the rig jars slightly, and Casey rocks forward. He collides with Billy, who gasps in pain. Something hot slithers down his chest and back, but Casey doesn’t have the ability to pay much attention since the pain is blinding. They right quickly, but the medic is yelling, pounding angrily on the front window before looking Casey over somewhat frantically. “Sorry, sorry,” he says, accent thick as his gloved hands probe.

“Don’t be sorry,” Casey tells him. “Just stop trying to kill us before you even get us to a hospital!”

The man says something in a language Casey can’t be bothered to recognize because he can’t even remember what country they’re in anymore because he’s too busy almost bleeding to death to care.

Casey shakes his head, vehement. “I don’t care about your excuses,” he says. “Because they’re pathetic. Just like you’re pathetic! And this entire situation is infinitely worse because of your utter incompetence!”

The man keeps talking and Casey feels his ire rise and he’s about to yell when he realizes something’s not right.

Something besides the pole sticking through him at any rate.

Billy.

Billy’s quiet.

Billy’s never quiet.

Casey turns his focus, letting the man’s explanations become background noise.

Billy’s still there. True, it’s not like he can go anywhere, but he’s not smiling anymore. His entire body is tense, slumped forward but barely upright. Casey only has to focus for a second to realize that the Scot is diverting all of his attention keeping himself as straight as he can.

Straight enough to keep off of Casey.

Billy’s always been one to ignore personal space. He likes friendly pats and playful punches. He takes pleasure from getting too close to Casey, to violating all his boundaries just to see him squirm. But right now, Billy’s pouring every ounce of effort into giving Casey the few centimeters he has to call his own.

It seems stupid, but then Casey realizes why.

It’s for Casey.

Billy knows Casey and he’ll annoy Casey for kicks when he can. But when things are serious, when the chips are down, Billy doesn’t mess around, even at his own expense.

Especially at his own expense.

Casey keeps his eyes trained on Billy, who’s eyes are diverted down now, breathing in harsh, even puffs.

“Hey,” he says.

Billy startles a little, looking up. He blinks and tries to smile. The result is a wavering half grin.

Casey doesn’t move. “Don’t,” he says.

Billy swallows, a tremulous movement. When he breathes, it seems to be a chore, and Casey can hear his lungs grating over the sound of the road. Billy shakes his head, confused.

“Don’t pretend,” Casey clarifies.

It clearly takes all of Billy’s strength but he says, “It may be present circumstances, but I’m not sure I follow.”

Billy’s words have their usual flair but his voice lacks luster.

Casey shakes his head. “You’re exhausted.”

“Well, I like to think the situation warrants a bit of weariness.”

“I know,” Casey replies readily – almost gently, as much as he’s capable – even as the medic starts adjusting monitors. “Which is why you don’t have to pretend.”

Billy blinks and stares for a moment. “Is that an allowance for weakness?” he asks, in actual disbelief.

“An allowance for reality,” Casey tells him. “Besides, given what we’re going to go through at the hospital, I think it’s fair for you to save your strength for when it matters.”

Billy hesitates, the needs of his body plainly conflicting with the carefully constructed facades they both keep.

Casey sighs. “This is a limited time offer,” he says gruffly.

“Well, then,” Billy says. “Who am I to refuse such generosity?”

No one. And Billy doesn’t fight it anymore. With the permission granted, Billy sags. His skin is clammy against Casey, as their shoulders touch in full. Billy’s head stays upright but propped against Casey’s cheek. The position is stabilizing, somehow reassuring.

Casey can’t see his face, but he feels the laugh, a soft puff of air against his hair. “Male bonding with Casey Malick,” he muses, voice barely audible over the sirens and the sounds of the road. “If only I could reach my camera phone.”

Casey grunts but doesn’t pull away. “Then this pipe would be the least of your concerns.”

-o-

At the hospital, there’s finally a doctor who speaks English. She stands there, gloves and mask in place and says, “Wow.”

Casey is less than impressed.

That’s not entirely her fault, though. Casey’s been less than impressed this entire mission, and ever since fate though it humorous to skewer him with Billy, his attitude has gotten progressively worse. Because Casey doesn’t do fear and he doesn’t do pain and he doesn’t do half naked hugs with his teammates, and yet, here he is, doing all three.

For his part, Billy is still loose against Casey, though he’s keeping his head up despite the increasing drag of his breathing. There’s still far too much skin to skin contact, but at this point, Casey can’t really do anything about it. The awkwardness of it is overshadowed by the harsh reality of it anyway. Casey’s thinking less about the horror if Michael or Rick should show up, and more about the way Billy flinches with each slight movement, the way his heart seems to stutter every beat.

It was not particularly encouraging.

And the doctor, standing there wide eyed, isn’t helping matters.

“I thought this was a hospital,” Casey tells the growing gaggle of doctors and nurses tersely.

“Never mind him,” Billy joins in, and he has to pause to catch his breath. Still, he sounds far more upbeat than he has any right to considering the nagging wetness of his breathing. But Billy’s the type who thrives with an audience, and it seems he has one now, more captive than ever. “I’ve had this reaction before.”

“Horror and repulsion?” Casey asks.

“Awe inspired stupefaction,” Billy amends.

Casey tsks his tongue and shakes his head. “Of all the people to be stuck to,” he mutters. He looks over to the doctor. “I’d like to fix this.”

A new nurse comes in and stop short with a shriek.

“Stop scaring the help, Casey!” Billy admonishes, though it takes obvious effort. Each exhale sounds like a bellows deflating, and Casey can feel the gurgling in his lung through his own chest.

Casey glares. “Today!”

-o-

It starts with triage. Billy’s breathing is badly compromised by this point, and Casey has noticed but ignored the flecks of blood on the Scotsman’s lips. It’s harder to overlook the dusky shade of his face, which is when the doctor makes her first brilliant diagnosis. “His lung’s collapsing.”

“You think?” Casey asks.

She casts him a glance but doesn’t respond. Instead she looks to a nurse. “Can we get a chest tube in here?”

Billy doesn’t say much, which is a testament to how bad it’s getting.

Casey feels compelled to talk on his behalf. “A chest tube?” he asks, incredulous. “Since he doesn’t have enough holes in him already.”

Billy chuffs a little, but nothing intelligible comes out around the wheezes. Casey bites down hard as the doctor uses an alcohol swipe to clear away a spot on Billy’s ribcage.

“Easy,” she coaches. “Just a little prick--”

It’s hard not to watch, if only because the angle of Casey’s head limits his field of vision. Blood wells in the tube and starts to drain. Billy tenses and then exhales, long and relaxed against Casey.

“That should help,” the doctor says, stringing up the tube and running it down and away from Casey’s line of sight. It’s just as well. Casey shifts his focus back to Billy, who is watching him through half lidded eyes. “Funny,” he says, still wheezing but it sounds less wet. “After the first prick, you hardly feel it at all.”

Casey quirks an eyebrow. “I’ll take your word on that for now.”

-o-

Finally, they start assessing.

That’s what the doctor calls it. Casey calls it standing around and staring, making idle conversation, for all the good they’re doing. The IVs are still in place, and whatever drugs they’re giving seem to be dulling the pain enough to really let Casey’s frustration rise. They’ve taken an x-ray and listened to their chests, but beyond those basics, they haven’t done much of anything except gawk.

And talk. Thankfully, they seem to have recruit all their English-speaking employees which makes it easier to be annoyed with their stupidity at any rate. “They are too close to cut between them,” one of the doctor says.

“So we think we can pull one of them off first, yes?” another asks.

“Perhaps, but such a move would be messy,” the first says.

“It could be messy now, even if we don’t act,” the other replies. “Look at the placement. If this moves much farther, it could rip the aorta in two.”

“He’s not much better,” the first says. “There’s enough vascular damage in this area to make bleeding out a real concern.”

While they debate, the nurses putz, as if somehow swabbing blood and checking vitals is going to convince Casey he’s receiving the best care possible.

To make matters worse, Billy seems to be flirting.

“It’s not so bad,” the Scot tells one of them. He pauses just long enough to cough, his entire body shuddering with the effort, but he controls it quickly. Despite Casey’s protests, Billy’s chest tube has helped considerably, and Casey can only figure the drugs and adrenaline are keeping him going. It’d be remarkable were it not quite so annoying. “A mite uncomfortable, perhaps, but I’ve been stuck in worse places.”

Casey tries to turn his head to see Billy, who’s still mostly leaned against him. “Are you actually going to say that?” he asks.

Billy lifts his head back just slightly, blinking his blue eyes earnestly. “I do admit this is less than pleasant, but it could be worse,” he says. He tries to smile, but he’s racked by another cough.

Casey scoffs. “There’s optimism and then there’s stupidity,” he says. “I’m classifying this as the latter. Because I’m not sure how it could be worse unless we were dead.”

“Eh, it’s all a matter--” He breaks off, eyelids fluttering as he controls a wheeze. “--a matter of perspective.”

“We’re in a hospital that apparently believes in staring, not treating,” Casey shoots back, without missing a beat. “And we’re violating every rule I’ve ever set about inter-office touching.”

Billy grins, letting his head relax forward again. “My point exactly.”

-o-

Of all the complications of being impaled with Billy, boredom is not the side effect Casey was worried about. However, it turns out to be his most pressing concern.

To the point, maybe not his most pressing concern. Billy’s chitchat has started to taper off, and his breathing is sounding worse again. His skin is cool and clammy against Casey’s, and his trembling is constant. He’s still responding, which is good, but the replies are getting somewhat nonsensical, even for Billy. All in all, Casey doesn’t need a medical degree to know Billy’s going downhill.

And all Casey can do is sit still, stare, and wait. And wait and wait and wait. It’s mind boggling and it’s boring and it’s taking too long.

True, he’s not exactly keeping track of time, but as far as he’s concerned, any amount of time in this situation is entirely too much.

“In case you were wondering, I don’t consider doing nothing an appropriate course of action,” he says finally, after the nurses have plied him with platitudes and Billy’s giggling in his ear becomes more than he can bear.

The first doctor looks over to him, hesitating. Finally, she approaches. “We’re just discussing the best course of action,” she says. “We will only have one opportunity and we want to ensure that we make the best possible decision.”

“I appreciate that,” Casey tells her. “But I’d appreciate it if you actually did something more.”

She hesitates again, glancing over to her colleagues. She’s hiding something, Casey realizes. His senses have been dumbed down by the medication and his injury or he would have picked up on it sooner. There’s something the medical staff is not telling them.

“What?” Casey demands.

The doctor presses her lips together. “We have no way of cutting the metal,” she says. “Not in this proximity. It would cause more damage than it would help.”

“So you take one of us off,” Casey says. “I get it.”

She nods, but doesn’t seem encouraged by his understanding. “It’s a question of who to remove from the metal first,” she explains. “The piping is essentially saving both of your lives at the moment. Whoever gets removed first will be in a perilous position.”

Meaning: whoever gets taken off first is more likely to die.

Suddenly, the debate makes sense. They’re not just discussing a course of action. They’re deciding who to give the best chance of survival to.

The thing is, it’s not a discussion at all. “Me,” Casey says. “You’ll take me off first.”

The doctor glances back again.

Billy stiffens, head moving slightly as he takes a noisy breath. The fact that he’s been silent this long throughout the conversation is indicative of his condition, but Casey’s not surprised when he still musters up the strength to speak. “Casey—“

Casey shakes his head, adamant now. “Billy’s clearly worse off,” he says. “His surgery is going to be far more difficult than mine is. Plus, my body is already in peak condition. This is a nonissue. Take me off first.”

Billy pulls his head back weakly, bracing himself with his hand against the side of the gurney they’re on. He looks worse now, dark circles standing out under his eyes and his complexion pasty. There’s more blood on his lips, but he shakes his head even as he seems to struggle for air. “Don’t be daft,” he says. He pauses to cough before gritting his teeth and continuing. “Listen to what they have to say.”

Casey gives a half hearted shrug, mindful of the metal. “There’s nothing to say,” he replies, looking from Billy to the doctor. “The most critical patient gets the most critical care. Basic triage.”

The doctor doesn’t seem convinced. She hedges. “There would be extensive bleeding, possibly more than we could fix,” she says.

“I can take it,” Casey says. “I know my own limitations. I know what I’m capable of. My chances of survival are still good.”

“But mine aren’t,” Billy says. The words are clearer than before, surprisingly lucid and distinct.

Casey looks at him, surprised, but there’s nothing but certainty on Billy’s face. The Scot looks from the doctor to Casey, his expression clearer than it’s been since they arrived at the hospital. “My injuries are such that I am not likely to survive, even if they take you first.”

The words send a shiver through Casey’s body, and suddenly he has to work to stay upright. Billy’s talking about dying. Billy’s talking about not making it through this alive.

“That’s stupid,” Casey says, the denials bitter on his tongue. He looks to the doctor, but there is no comfort there. She agrees with Billy.

That’s what they’ve been trying to decide on. Whether or not to sacrifice Billy’s life to increase Casey’s odds. Whether or not to consider Billy mostly a lost cause.

It’s a hard fact, and one that Casey refuses. He shakes his head. “No,” he says.

“I give my full consent,” Billy says, glancing toward the doctor.

“Well, I don’t,” Casey snaps.

“Casey,” Billy says, voice low. “Be reasonable.”

“I am being reasonable,” he says. “It’s reasonable to expect doctors to make choices based on the possibilities for all patients, not just those they deem fit.”

“Casey,” Billy says again, pleading a little this time.

Casey shakes his head. “No,” he says, looking Billy in the eyes. “No.

Billy’s eyes are clouded with pain and with drugs, but the protest is there. It’s written all over his face as he inhales raggedly. He believes the doctors.

And yet, he doesn’t say anything.

Casey gathers what strength he has and turns to the doctors. “Find another way.”

The doctor starts to speak.

Casey shakes his head, the anger almost too much to control. He doesn’t care how, he doesn’t care what, but he won’t accept this fate. Not for himself, and definitely not for Billy. “Find another way!”

-o-

To their credit, the doctors try.

Or, at the very least, they seem to try.

They poke and prod, fingers probing the wounds while they talk in hushed tones. And they’re talking faster now. There’s more going on, and nurses shuffle in and out, bringing in trays and setting up equipment.

Something’s going to happen, even if Casey’s not sure what.

Then, something does happen.

But not amongst the doctors and nurses. Casey notices it the instant it starts, when Billy’s body goes heavy against him. It’s a miniscule shift, but the extra weight is palpable.

He’s about to complain, to jostle Billy lightly, but then the Scotsman’s head lolls against his shoulder.

“Hey,” he says, straining to see as best he can. “I said you could relax, not go to sleep.”

He’s expecting a reply, but no reply comes. No reply is going to come, and Casey can see why. Because Billy’s features are lax, face turned toward Casey in unconsciousness as his breath barely brushes Casey’s neck. He’s colorless now, lips more than a little blue.

“Billy?” Casey asks, trying to find some semblance of calm.

But Billy doesn’t answer, and there is no calm.

There’s nothing.

There’s just Billy lifeless on his shoulder and no one paying attention and just as Casey works himself up to yell, the monitor screeches and there’s nothing left for Casey to do at all.

-o-

The doctors swarm. A nurse runs through Billy’s vitals, and someone straps oxygen masks over their faces. Things start shifting, pain spikes, doctors start getting in gowns, and Casey doesn’t know what’s happening.

He wants to ask – he tries to ask – but no one’s listening.

No one seems to be looking at them at all.

Suddenly, it’s just him and Billy, alone in the chaos. Billy’s limp against him, long arms draped over Casey and legs dangling. And Casey can hear his heart beat, feel each ragged breath. There’s blood now, too. It spills down Billy’s front, coating Casey, hot and sticky.

Billy’s dying.

It’s that simple.

Billy’s dying.

“We have to do it,” someone says. “The piping has shifted.”

“Okay, someone call for the saw,” another says.

“We’ll need to move.”

“Do we have enough blood?”

“Where’s x-ray?”

“We never got permission—“

“We don’t need permission—“

And neither does Casey.

Billy is dying and Casey can’t do much, but he can do one thing.

One thing.

He looks at Billy.

He looks at the piping.

And then he starts to move.

-o-

In retrospect, it’s not his smartest choice. He might blame the painkillers. He might blame blood loss and shock. He could easily fault the poor medical staff for pushing him to the brink.

But really, Casey knows better.

Lying flat on his back, blood pouring out of him, he knows a lot better.

Because he just dragged himself off a piece of copper piping. He might have just more or less committed suicide without so much as a second thought. And it’s not the painkiller or the shock or the doctors.

It’s Billy.

The doctors, for all their inaction before, are almost frantic now. They move over him, talking and yelling and Casey can’t hear them. Instead, he lolls his head to the side.

It’s Billy.

On his side, the bloodied piping is stretched out in front of him. His eyes are closed, and blood soaks the gurney in front of him. The oxygen mask covers the lower part of his face, and he looks more dead than alive. His limbs are limp, skin gray, but the doctors are treating him now and that’s all Casey wanted.

It’s all he can ask for.

Then, an alarm wails, and Casey feels light headed. He’s floating for an instant and then he’s gone entirely.

-o-

When he wakes up, the pressure in his chest is gone. It’s been replaced by an oppressive, encompassing pain. He tries to take a breath, but finds the gesture futile.

The inability is unnerving. More than that, it’s frustrating. Casey narrows his focus and tries again.

Something beeps. Pain flares. There’s a hand on his shoulder and a voice in his ear. “Easy, Casey.”

The voice is annoyingly straightforward. There’s only one person who can make an order sound so diplomatic, and Casey finds himself resenting Michael for the presumption.

In fact, he decides to wake up, make a fuss, just to defy Michael’s impeccable sense of order in chaos, but the more he tries, the harder it gets.

He’s still trying when everything dissipates once again.

-o-

The next time he comes back, it feels like a slow progression. An inevitable ascent. When he opens his eyes, he’s already annoyed that it took him this long.

He can breathe this time, but the simple motion is jarring. The tightness in his chest is pervasive, and the cotton-like vice on his brain can only distract him from its intensity. Looking around, he starts making mental notes. The IVs; the monitors. The tiled hospital ceiling.

Michael.

It takes more effort than it should, but somehow Casey musters a scowl.

Michael smirks. “You’ve been trying to do that all day.”

“If they didn’t have me on these drugs, then I would have done it earlier,” Casey remarks.

“If they didn’t have you on these drugs, you’d probably be curled up in the corner with pain,” Michael says.

“I can handle pain,” Casey retorts.

Michael lifts his eyebrows. “You were impaled on copper piping,” he says. “They had to repair your lung and you nearly bled out. They had to call in more blood from another hospital. I think this is a little too much, even for you.”

Casey considers that, and can’t deny it. So, he ignores it.

Michael hesitates, his glance turning away. When he looks up, his eyes are darker. “That was stupid, you know,” he says.

“I didn’t mean to get impaled,” Casey tells him.

“I mean back in the ER,” Michael says. “They told me you pulled yourself off. You nearly killed yourself, do you know that?”

Casey doesn’t think in terms like that, even if that’s a reality he’s somehow aware of. Death is not an option he entertains, mostly because it’s counterproductive. Putting death on the table only makes it more likely, and if the worst should come, Casey’ll be too dead to worry about it anyway.

Instead, Casey thinks in terms of what needs to be done. It’s pretty simple for him. It works, even when it doesn’t.

He levels a plain stare at Michael. “They were going to remove Billy first,” he says.

“They’re doctors, they know what they’re doing.”

Casey’s gaze doesn’t flicker. “They were going to remove him first because they didn’t think he’d survive either way,” he says. “They were going to write him off, not give him a fighting chance. So I decided to give him the chance.”

Michael has no argument for that. Instead, he purses his lips and seems to be pulling together his thoughts. Finally he sighs, shaking his head. “Still stupid,” he says. He hesitates. “Aren’t you even going to ask if it worked?”

Casey blinks at him. In all of this, he actually hasn’t considered that. He hasn’t thought about Billy dying because he still refuses to accept it as an outcome.

Besides: “You wouldn’t be sitting here making small talk if Billy were dead,” he says. “And you certainly wouldn’t be telling me how stupid I was if I hadn’t been right.”

A small smile tugs at Michael’s lips when he realizes he’s been outed. He ducks his head sheepishly, rubbing at the back of his neck. “He’s got a long road,” he says. “The doctors are being a little guarded—“

“The doctors are morons,” Casey says. “Billy will be fine.”

Michael doesn’t look quite convinced. He also doesn’t look distraught. That’s like Michael, to play the middle ground when he has to.

And it’s just like Casey to keep driving, pushing ahead regardless of anything, until he gets the desired outcome.

Michael sighs again, this time sitting back in his chair. “Before you start making demands about wheelchairs and seeing him, you should know you’re not going anywhere yet.”

“But—“

Michael stops him with a look. “If you say you’re all right, I will show you just how wrong you are,” he says. “Injured or not, I will put you on your ass and you will never live it down.”

Casey wants to tell Michael he’d like to see him try when he realizes, he wouldn’t.

Because his body is exhausted; the pain hasn’t abated; and everything aches. Drowsiness is pulling at him, and as the adrenaline fades, so does Casey.

“Fine,” he murmurs, letting himself relax. “But when I wake up—“

“Yeah, yeah,” Michael says. “When you wake up.”

-o-

Michael’s a liar, of course, so it’s another few days before Casey manages to coerce Rick into finding him a wheelchair. By then, he’s so set on the idea of proving everyone he can, that he doesn’t realize until he’s halfway down the hall that maybe he can’t.

His entire body is so weak, that keeping himself erect in the chair is a bit of a challenge. The movement churns his stomach, and he has to hunch over to avoid aggravating his barely stitched wound. He hurts so much that he zones out halfway there, but once he gets to Billy’s room, none of that matters.

Billy’s still in the intensive care unit. It’s been over a week, and though Billy’s vitals are improving, he’s still listed as critical. He’d undergone a number of surgeries, starting with one to repair the damage to the vessels and arteries near his heart. This was the toughest part, though certainly not the last part. After that, they’d had to tackle the shattered ribs, chasing down the slivers before they started perforating internal organs. And of course, replacing the shattered bone with something artificial had been no picnic, and Billy’s recovery will be tenuous at best.

But he will recover. Casey has never wavered in that.

Still, he doesn’t look good. His skin has lost its dusky hue, but he’s still mostly colorless. He’s been fighting a low grade fever and he’s developed a case of pneumonia, which is keeping him on the ventilator and heavily sedated. It’s unsettling to see him so still, but it’s reassuring as well.

Casey can still remember Billy’s breath on his cheek, his heart pounding against Casey. Casey avoids platonic human contact when possible, but nothing had been more anchoring than that. Now that they’ve been separated, Casey’s forgotten, but next to Billy again, the memory is fresh.

It’s not sentimental; it’s practical. Human contact can be superfluous, but when everything else is fading, it’s a vibrant pull back to the here and now. When there’s nothing to hold onto, a literal human hand can sort of do the trick.

Billy did it for him.

Casey thinks maybe he can return the favor.

All the same, he waits until Martinez leaves. Waits until they’re alone. Then he doesn’t say anything – Billy needs words, but Casey never has – and wheels himself over. He puts a hand on Billy’s arm and squeezes.

It’s that simple.

And later, when the nurse comes back to collect him, it’s entirely by accident that Casey’s head is slumped over on Billy’s shoulder while they both sleep the long hours back to awareness.

-o-

The doctors want Casey to take it slow, but Casey has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t care what the doctors think. He takes their timetable and cuts it in half.

He’s walking when they think he should be sitting up; he’s asking for discharge papers when they’re ready to start okaying him for walks around the ward.

Casey’s too busy to be infirmed.

He’s started taking shifts in Billy’s room, alternating with Rick and Michael as they all hold vigil. Cautiousness has given way to hope, and the doctors start talking about when Billy will wake up with a certain measure of wonder.

Which only goes to show their ineptitude again.

Billy takes his time in waking up, so much so that Rick’s been fretting and Michael’s been hovering. But Casey doesn’t doubt. Casey knows Billy just likes to take his own damn time with some things. He’s not happy unless he’s putting on a show.

And this has been a pretty impressive show, all things considered.

It’s ironic, really. Casey was so upset at having to share a confined space with the talkative Scotsman, and here he is, willingly sharing a confined space, hoping said talkative Scotsman would wake up.

Which is probably what Billy has planned for.

So when Billy finally wakes up, Casey’s only response is to glare.

Billy blinks, dazed and confused, hands flailing slightly as he struggles with the tube.

Casey sits up and holds Billy’s arms down. He waits until they make eye contact, and he feels the other man relax.

It’s a good moment. Their eyes connect, and somehow they understand. The things they said, the things they didn’t. The things they did, the things they would have done.

And finally, Casey wets his lips and definitely does not smile. “Finally,” he says. “About damn time.”

-o-

After everything, there are still sacrifices Casey’s willing to make. He’ll lay down his life when he needs to, no questions asked. No regrets. For the mission; for his teammates; for the people who he won’t call friends because they don’t need the title for it to be true.

And there are still sacrifices he hates making.

“Commercial?” Casey asks in utter disbelief. “Tell me they at least upgraded us to business class.”

Michael shrugs. “Budget cuts.”

Casey frowns angrily. After being impaled and almost dying and living at a hospital for the better part of a month, his grand return home is being facilitated by an overzealous commercial airline. It hardly seems fair.

Actually, it’s not fair. But then, neither is anything else in Casey’s life. There are some fights he can win, and some he just can’t.

He sighs.

“At least we’re finally going home,” Rick says, trying to sound upbeat. “That’s something, right?”

From the bed, Billy offers a languid smile. “It is indeed,” he says. “But as a pessimist, Casey doesn’t care much for somethings.

“I’m a realist,” Casey snaps. “And going home crammed like a sardine while my luggage gets sent to Antarctica isn’t something. You may as well just stab me with more copper piping and put me out of my misery.”

Rick’s the only one who still pales at the reference. Michael rolls his eyes and Billy gives him a look. “Still looking for reasons to get close to me, eh?” Billy asks, eyes twinkling.

Casey returns his humor with a deep scowl. “If being close to you involves intense pain and near death, then apparently, yes.”

Michael gets to his feet, patting Rick on the shoulder. “We should leave these two to it,” he says.

Rick looks up at him. “You sure it’s safe?” He’s only half joking.

“Never fear,” Billy interjects. “Casey and I share a very special bond now.”

“If that’s what we’re calling near death experiences these days,” Casey mutters.

Michael just shakes his head. “We’ll be back in a few minutes with more information about when they can discharge you.”

Billy nods. “I look forward to it,” he calls after them.

When they’re alone, Billy sighs. He’s looking better, obviously. The color has returned to his cheeks and he’s joking like he used to. He has a lingering cough, but the fever is under control. He gets winded easily, but there’s no sign of further complications from the injury.

Just two puckered scars, on the front and back, matching Casey’s own.

A very special bond, indeed.

The sentimentality of it make Casey want to throw something.

Instead, he shakes his head. “You do need to take it easy, you know,” he says. “If you need more time—“

Billy looks at him curiously. “And I thought the admissions of weakness were a limited time offer.”

Casey’s jaw tightens. He’s hoped Billy might have forgotten that part. “I’m just saying,” he says. “I went through an awful lot to keep you alive. I’d hate to see you blow it now.”

Billy nods. “Of course,” he says. “It’s still a matter of pure practicality.”

“Completely,” Casey agrees.

The hint of a smile toys with Billy’s lips. Finally, he says, “Thank you for that.”

“The doctors weren’t playing the odds right,” Casey says with a shrug.

“You still risked your life for mine,” Billy says. “I’m grateful.”

It’s sincere. Which makes Casey squirm in disgust. “Just stop,” he says. “I didn’t save your life to live through torturous thank you’s.”

“I’m just expressing my appreciation—“

“Well, don’t,” Casey says shortly. “Or if you must, don’t do it with stupid words. Do it by getting better. Getting back in shape. Getting cleared for duty. That’s a thanks worth having.”

Billy blinks at him, a little shocked.

Casey shrugs. “Or I also like steak dinners.”

And Billy laughs. “How about all of them then?” he asks. “Just to show you how grateful I am without putting you in any further discomfort.”

Casey shifts in his seat and nods. “Fine,” he says. He hesitates, then adds, “And for the future, if you could please possibly stop trying to get yourself killed—“

Billy nods. “Agreed,” he says. He stops, eyes lighting up again as a grin spreads across his face. “Though I should think you wouldn’t have to worry about that.”

Casey doesn’t lift his eyebrows. He doesn’t inquire for more. He doesn’t because he doesn’t want to know. Not at all. This conversation is superfluous, after all. And Casey doesn’t have the time, much less the patience or the energy.

Billy doesn’t need a response, though. Instead, his grin widens. “Because I told you before,” he says. “You are stuck with me. Now, more than ever.”

It’s not funny. It’s annoying. It’s sentimental drivel that Casey needs no part of.

So Casey grunts, rolling his eyes and shaking his head as he looks back at Billy with no emotion whatsoever. “Oh, joy.”

Comments

Posted by: Lena7142 (lena7142)
Posted at: July 26th, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
chaos don't mean

You already know how much I love this fic, but it bears repeating!

I love how the boys manage to banter and gripe in the face of such a horrific situation, and how the humor in constantly underscored with tension and fear that really lends layers to the emotion of this story.

“I can take it,” Casey says. “I know my own limitations. I know what I’m capable of. My chances of survival are still good.”

“But mine aren’t,” Billy says. The words are clearer than before, surprisingly lucid and distinct.

Casey looks at him, surprised, but there’s nothing but certainty on Billy’s face. The Scot looks from the doctor to Casey, his expression clearer than it’s been since they arrived at the hospital. “My injuries are such that I am not likely to survive, even if they take you first.”

The words send a shiver through Casey’s body, and suddenly he has to work to stay upright. Billy’s talking about dying. Billy’s talking about not making it through this alive.


I choke up a bit at this part, and then I completely lose it when Casey pulls himself off the pipe to try to save Billy. The unflinching willingness to sacrifice for each other just reduces me to a puddle of feelings on the floor.

And then you bring it back with that wonderful full-circle banter and joking that just makes me want to hug everything and everyone.

Well done! *G*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 2nd, 2012 03:48 am (UTC)
billy considers

Aww. You're so nice to me. I don't even have more words than that.

Thanks!

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: July 27th, 2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
Casey and Billy

I absolutely love that SPN fic and yours is just as awesome :)

The bantering despite the bleak situation is just hilarious and the angst - just perfect.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 2nd, 2012 03:51 am (UTC)
billy guitar

That fic is one of my favorites :)

I'm glad this lives up to a bit!

Thanks!s

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: July 27th, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
Chaosketeers

Wow! That was an extreme situation, even for our ODS boys!
But leave it to the ODS boys to get out of it in their own Chaosketeers way.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 2nd, 2012 03:52 am (UTC)
billy likes

It does get hard to come up with new situations for the boys :) Glad you liked it!

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