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Chaos fic: The Shadow Proves the Sunshine (1/2)

October 11th, 2012 (06:31 am)
bitchy

feeling: bitchy

Title: The Shadow Proves the Sunshine 1/2

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: This fic is for the wonderful sockie1000 who fell in love with Chaos through fic alone. It’s her birthday today, and she deserves so mcuh more than this, but this is sadly all I have to offer :)

A/N 2: Much thanks to postfallen for the helpful beta. And with credit to lena7142 who tolerates me day after day and makes me feel good enough to keep writing.

Summary: They should have been careful, they should have been thorough. Instead, here they were. Trapped and alone and hurt. As if Casey needed more reasons to loathe this mission.



-o-

This mission was a waste of time.

Casey had come to expect such things. He did, unfortunately, work for a government agency. Wasting time was inevitably part of the job.

But that didn’t mean Casey had to like it.

And Casey really didn’t like it.

Because he had better things to do. Things like catching real bad guys, stopping real international threats. Training, meditating, finding personal fulfillment through food, sex and exercise.

Yet, here he was. With Billy. In a car in the middle of nowhere.

Billy had driven them out of the city with ease, and Casey’s mood had deteriorated the farther along they went. Because he hadn’t slept and he’d been forced to eat only marginally edible slop and this mission was a waste of time.

When Billy brought the car to a rolling stop, Casey was sore and cranky. The Scot killed the engine, even as Casey peered through the window into the darkened night outside.

“You sure this is the place?” Casey asked dubiously, squinting to see down the deserted lane.

Billy flipped open his phone. “Coordinates match,” he confirmed. “Michael wants us to sweep it and secure it before he arrives with Martinez.”

Casey made a face, eyeing the dilapidated front stoop, the crooked front door. The windows were boarded up, some of the siding hanging precariously. There was a hole in the roof, and the gothic-style ironwork teetered haphazardly along the walkway.

It was in total disrepair. It also looked potentially hazardous and totally abandoned. In short, it looked like a waste of his too precious time. “It doesn’t look like a KGB black site,” he muttered.

Billy huffed. “Maybe that’s the point, aye?” he asked, leaning closer and looking out Casey’s window. “Seems fitting, though. A joyless safehouse for a joyless group of people. Besides, it’s been vacant for years.”

It was impossible to tell sometimes when Billy was being serious and actually saying things for the benefit of the mission and when Billy was just being Billy. Annoyingly, frustratingly, inanely Billy.

Most of the time, it was some combination of the two.

“Which means that if the KGB was stupid enough to leave something behind, it would have been ransacked by now,” Casey said crossly.

“Oi, Casey,” Billy said, sitting back and looking at him crossly. “You are unduly negative, even for you. A chance to best Russian spies; I can’t imagine anything that would please you more.”

Casey sat back and glared at his teammate. “We’re chasing the trail of a KGB thug who couldn’t keep up with the times and resorted to illegal arms trade instead,” he said. “The man isn’t even bright enough to avoid using US arms that are still tagged. He lost entire first shipment before he even had a chance to get his operation off the ground.”

And that was only the start of Casey’s complete and total dislike of the mission. Not only were they facing a woefully unprepared and unprofessional opponent, but the total intelligence gain was going to be minimal. They had hoped their mark would have connections they could exploit, but after chasing the moron through the city, Casey had quickly concluded that the man was too stupid to actually have made any criminal friends of note.

In addition to this, the tip had come from an asset that Casey had never particularly liked or trusted. Plus, the entire mission had received Higgins’ unmitigated approval, which generally was a sign that it wasn’t a mission that Casey was especially pleased about. Because that meant it had a bureaucratic leaning, and he’d had to endure hours of sorting through surveillance footage with Blanke, no less, before being forced to fly commercial.

Then the airline had confiscated his hair gel. Now his hair looked as ridiculous and unkempt as Billy’s.

“So he had a few operational mishaps,” Billy said, shrugging with a total indifference that indicated either a lack of intelligence or a lack of common sense. Perhaps both, in Billy’s case. “But he did get away.”

“Because this mission is a disaster, ruled by bureaucratic oversights that have left us completely compromised,” Casey snapped.

Billy lifted his eyebrows. “Cranky, cranky,” he said. “Someone is starting to get crotchety in their old age.”

“I’m not old,” Casey snapped.

“But you are crotchety,” Billy persisted.

Casey blew out a breath and collected another one with due diligence. He needed to retain his calm. Killing Billy would only create more operational messes that he didn’t want to deal with. “I’m just saying,” Casey said, slowly and carefully. “That I’m not entirely sure that this lead is worthwhile. This mission is a waste of time as it is. We are expending pointless energy.”

“Ah, perhaps,” Billy said. “But we are on orders from Higgins.”

“Who probably just wants confirmation of a KGB safehouse,” Casey added.

“It’s entirely possible that he’s holed up here,” Billy returned diplomatically.

“We really think he’s holed up in some abandoned house in the middle of nowhere? In Belarus?” Casey asked bitingly, because this perhaps wasn’t Billy’s fault, but there was no one else there, so Billy was close enough.

Besides, if Casey thought hard enough, everything could be Billy’s fault.

“He’s been here before,” Billy said. He sighed, his pretenses dropping. “He’s spooked. It’s our only lead.”

It was Casey’s turn to sigh, undoing his seatbelt and getting out of his car with more show than needed. If this was an unavoidable and tedious annoyance, he would do it, but not without voicing his discontent. He was almost looking forward to his mission report for once, where he could thoroughly criticize the operational idiocy that had led them to a purported KGB black site, chasing the more irrelevant criminal known to the CIA.

He wasn’t getting too old for this job, but he was getting too old for this nonsense. He didn’t want to spend his precarious twilight years letting his health and vitality dwindle running errands for the Director and chasing stupid criminals across Eastern Europe.

Yet. Here he was.

“Fine,” he muttered, facing the house as Billy came alongside him. “But if we find him, I reserve the right to beat him into submission.”

Billy held up his hands. “For you, anything,” he said grandly. He gestured down the lane. “Besides, age before beauty.”

Casey glared, grumbling as he approached, Billy right behind him.

-o-

With no other houses and little other cover, approaching the house was a cautious sort of thing. If this was a KGB safehouse, then proceeding with care was really their best bet at staying alive. And Casey was annoyed enough already at this mission. He didn’t need to add serious injury or death to the picture, because that would really piss him off.

“Looks quiet,” Billy mused, easing forward. They were making their way along a row of overgrown bushes, keeping low even as the moonlight illuminated their path.

Casey scowled. “Looks can be deceiving.”

“And you, my friend, are living proof,” Billy said, darting back toward a tree, away from view of the main windows in the front.

“You, however, are not,” Casey griped. “You look as stupid as you are.”

Billy paused, looking back at Casey and cocking his head. “Is it just me, or are you even more sour than usual this fine evening?”

Casey pulled up short and gave Billy a withering stare. “We’re traipsing around a rumored KGB black site looking for a wannabe terrorist. A bad one at that. This is hardly a good use of my time. There are real problems out there. This is something that should be handled by an annoyed competitor, not the CIA’s best.”

Billy nodded in commiseration. “There’s just that nasty point about protecting American interests that we have to be concerned about,” he said. “An annoying detail sometimes, I’ll grant you that, but generally noble.”

“Higgins could have sent Blanke on this one,” Casey muttered. “Even he couldn’t screw it up.”

Billy craned his head around, examining the house carefully. “Oh, I don’t know. This case has its unique challenges,” he said. He glanced back, waggling his eyebrows. “All in all, it feels rather spy-ish, don’t you think? Covert ops, wielding our way through the dark of night?”

Casey grunted. “That is about the only consolation,” he said. “This way, it’s dark enough that no one has to see that I was even affiliated with such an amateurish mission.”

Billy chortled lightly, the sound hushed in the still night. “Well, then, after you,” he said, gesturing grandly. “I’ll stay close behind and make sure that your light stays firmly under a bushel.”

Casey glared, eyes narrowed with annoyance. But the night wasn’t going to last forever, and if he had to waste his time looking for a bad excuse for a terrorist, then he needed to waste as little time as possible.

Lips pressed together, he ducked back down and started out again into the night.

-o-

As they approached, all conversation stopped. Stupid though the mission was, they were professionals. There seemed to be no active surveillance that they could see with all the windows darkened and smeared with what appeared to be a genuine layer of dust. There was no hint of movement from inside, and when Billy peeked in one of the main floor windows on the side, he shook his head.

“We still think he’s here?” Casey hissed. “He’s probably long gone.”

Billy didn’t deny it, but hunched low, moving around an overgrown patch of weeds. “Better safe than sorry, I reckon,” he murmured. “Besides, it’s so dark, we can’t get a visual confirmation at all.”

Casey followed close, though his frustration was growing. “We should be sweeping the airports,” he said.

“Interpol has an APB out,” Billy reminded him. “And besides, isn’t this the sort of thing you’d rather do yourself?”

“No,” Casey said curtly. “I’m a Shadow Warrior. This mission is beneath me and is a total waste of my training and skill.”

Billy scoffed as they made their way around to the front porch. “And you can now safely add psychic ability to your ever-growing list of skills?” he asked, turning back to Casey with a wry look. “Because last I checked, we hadn’t swept the house. Our good friend and degenerate terrorist may be in there, kipping off.”

Casey sighed, pursing his lips. It was just like Billy. To be contrary and still so upbeat. He had the most annoying knack for framing Casey’s discomforts and dislikes with an unwarranted positive spin.

This would be one thing if it were just a genuine feeling. Casey would tolerate it from Martinez because the kid was still too young and stupid to know better. Billy liked to pretend to be an optimist, but Casey knew better. He was an opportunistic sort, who played positive emotions against him just because he could.

In this, Casey was glad again for the dark. This way, there was less evidence of how successfully Billy was getting under his skin.

Still, he glowered. “You know, if I accidentally killed you way out here in the dark, there’d be no evidence against me.”

Billy’s grin widened. Dark or not, Billy could still see through him. “Fun as that sounds, I say we finish the job and skip the killing,” he said, far too jovially. “I’d hate for you to have my blood on your hands when the daylight comes.”

“Don’t be so sure,” Casey returned.

Billy eased his way up the steps, the first one creaking. They both paused, but nothing in the house flickered, and he made his way up the rest as Casey followed.

“But I know you,” Billy continued, one foot cautiously on the floorboards of the rickety porch. “I know that somewhere, deep inside that black soul of yours, there is a light burning bright.” He gave Casey a reaffirming nod. “It shines brighter than the rest of us, no matter how hard you try to hide it.”

Casey edged past Billy, moving to the door with soft footfalls. He paused, listening. Then he looked at Billy tersely. “Don’t count on it.”

He didn’t wait for Billy’s reply, instead moved his hand to the door, testing it. It moved easily, the metal squeaking but sliding open easily. Casey pushed it, and the hinges protested but the door slipped open with a faint whoosh of air.

Casey glanced back, and Billy shrugged.

Rolling his eyes, Casey pushed the door open and made his way into the pitch black.

-o-

Inside, the air was dank and musty. There was a faint smell of rotting and the distinctive scent of mold. The floors creaked louder here, the entire house seeming to shift precarious as they ventured inward. Moonlight barely filtered through the caked over windows, but the swirling dust was hard to miss, even in the cloying darkness.

It was ominous, to some degree. The remaining furniture was ramshackle, standing out darkly like disfigured shadows looming in the night.

Ominous.

And empty.

Casey was sure of it no more than two feet in the door. There was too much dust, too much fermentation. The air was too stale. No one had been here in years.

Behind him, Billy’s posture had eased, and he straightened up, squinting through the black.

Casey cast him a sideways glance. “Is it too early to say I told you so?”

Billy drew his mouth closed, but this time he had no flippant reply. “Let’s just clear it and get the job done, eh?”

The reticence might have actually been a breath of fresh air, were it not so indicative that something was wrong. Billy didn’t do quiet and reserved. In fact, he’d been entirely too chipper this entire mission. As if catching criminals that were more likely to get themselves killed than anything else was something to enjoy.

But that was the way Billy was. Most of the time, Casey had come to tacitly accept that about the Scot. Billy had his coping mechanisms, Casey had his. Casey’s were far superior, of course, but Billy was an acceptable operative most of the time.

Most of the time, however, Casey didn’t feel as though his talents were being sincerely wasted and his time completely devalued. Normally he could expend some energy accepting Billy’s brand of idiocy, but the mission had used up all that – and more.

“Don’t tell me,” Casey snerked disparagingly. “You’re scared of the dark?”

Billy’s eyes searched the black. “I can’t say it’s my first choice, actually,” he said. Then he shook his head. “Something just feels…off. Don’t you think?”

Casey didn’t have to think. He knew. Everything felt off about the entire damn mission since they never should have wasted their time on it in the first place.

But that was neither here nor there. He cleared his throat, shaking his head. “No,” he said flatly. “Because the dark is the best part of what we do. It’s so much better when we don’t have to actually see the results. All action; no regret.”

Billy smiled faintly, moving off into the living area. “If you say so,” he murmured.

Casey did.

That was enough.

Shrugging, he followed Billy.

-o-

The place was empty.

This was, of course, entirely expected.

By the time Billy got back from his half of the main floor, Casey was leaning expectantly on the front door, totally bored.

Now can I say I told you so?” Casey asked.

Billy’s face was drawn, eyebrows knitted toward each other. “First floor is clear,” he said, ignoring Casey’s gloating. His eyes lingered on the stairs leading to a sagging upper floor. “Ready to go up?”

Casey didn’t blink, didn’t flinch. “So you want to look foolishly stupid when I finally get to say that I’m right.”

Billy inclined his head. “I just don’t want to have any second guesses in the morning, is all.”

This time, Casey sighed, pushing up off the wall. “Oh, all right,” he said, moving to the stairs. “But for the record, I still think this whole thing is a waste of time.”

Then, his foot hit the bottom step.

Then, he cocked his head.

KGB black site, he thought. Abandoned, all these years.

No one had been here, the place had been swept, but a good spy would never leave it open, vulnerable.

A good spy would know to look carefully.

A good spy would have known that the entire place was probably rigged.

Casey didn’t move, holding his breath. Because this mission was beneath him, this mission was pointless. This mission didn’t deserve the darkness, because the night was limited. There was only so much time before the sun rose.

And shadow warriors were ineffective in the light.

How much time could Casey spend, chasing pointless leads when there were other things that demanded his attention? How much time could he waste before the dawn broke and Casey was exposed for what he really was?

An aging operative with more bark than bite? Looks could be deceiving.

Or they could be right.

Casey had made a career in the dark, and when the light finally found him…

Billy paused behind him. “Something I should know?” he asked.

Casey gritted his teeth. “Never mind,” he said. “This is a KGB safehouse after all.”

Billy frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Because the entire thing is going to blow right now,” he said.

Billy’s eyes widened in shock as Casey leaped toward him, shoving them both backward as the explosive detonated and split the dark with light.

-o-

In all of Casey’s life, he had never liked being unconscious. In fact, the mere act of sleeping used to leave him unsettled and restless, which was why he learned deep forms of meditation to provide a restorative effect and nearly eliminated REM sleep altogether. Unconsciousness brought on by physical ailments was so much worse, though, because Casey had no control over it. The only thing worse was medical sedation, which he vehemently abhorred and took great pains to avoid.

The thing was, it wasn’t always possible to avoid unconsciousness, and he was never more keenly aware of it as when he was unconscious.

Such as now.

Though, if he were aware of his unconsciousness that meant that he wasn’t too deep under. Which meant he could wake up.

Just like that, Casey opened his eyes.

To darkness.

He blinked once, then twice, and realized that there was nothing wrong with his vision but that the scene around him was simply pitch black. Which made sense, he reminded himself, as it had been nighttime last he knew.

Nighttime at a KGB safehouse.

Nighttime at a KGB safehouse that had exploded.

This fact was marginally disconcerting; it was mostly just annoying. Because explosions could be useful and even somewhat entertaining, but only when he wasn’t actually inside the explosion. He much preferred setting up the explosive and sitting back to watch things go boom.

Not only did being inside the explosion lead to things like injury, impairment and unconsciousness, but it meant that he had been stupid enough to walk into the blast. Sometimes it was inevitable, he supposed, but he still prided himself on managing to circumvent these situations by his care, dedication and overall self awareness.

He’d missed this, though. Even now, lying there in the dark, he was trying to think if he’d missed any obvious signs. The entire first floor had been vacant, devoid of anything threatening or suggestive. There had been no sign that he could remember that the stairs were rigged, and if Billy had seen something—

Billy.

Casey cocked his head, remembering.

Of course, then pain exploded between his ears and throbbed behind his eyes.

For a moment, he had to squeeze his eyes shut, swallowing ruthlessly against an onslaught of nausea. His body was well trained, and he hated that it still wanted to respond to trauma in such pedestrian manners. Nausea was a superfluous feeling. He either needed to throw up or just quash the sensation.

Steadier, he opened his eyes again, this time squinting out into the black. He’d spent hours in the dark, learning how to block the light in his apartment to improve his awareness in just these types of situations. It took a long moment – and the head injury only made things harder – but finally his eyes adjusted, and he made out his predicament a bit more clearly.

It was actually better than he might have expected. He had an unobstructed view, looking straight up at a gaping hole in the floor above him. The explosives had most likely been rigged in the stairs themselves, which made it likely that the hole was on the first floor.

Which meant he had fallen through to the basement.

Funny, he hadn’t even been aware there was a basement. He’d just assumed…

This wasn’t the time for recriminations, though. He had just fallen through the floor, so further assessing his condition and the condition of the structure was of paramount concern. The debris field was relatively small, with a plentiful mess of small boards and charred plaster. The basement appeared to have been mostly vacant, though it was even ranker than the main floor.

The house hadn’t been in great condition to begin with, but there was no clear indication that it was in any imminent danger of collapse. The blast had taken out the stairs – he could see pieces of the railing and the crumpled structure – but the walls looked otherwise intact.

As for himself, he seemed to have fared just as well. His head did hurt – and the back felt sticky with blood – but his thinking processes were not too badly impaired. In fact, except for the initial bout of nausea, there weren’t even any signs of a concussion – at least, not a serious one. He had landed flat on his back, which was actually quite fortunate. Yes, it did mean that there was a generalized pain in his body, but it also ensured that his limbs had not been compromised. He could wiggle his toes and lift his hands. Save for a few bruises and scratches – including one particularly deep gouge in his side – he seemed to be relatively okay.

In no risk of dying, at any rate. Which meant that it was time to move.

He was cautious, but he didn’t hesitate. Pushing himself up on his elbows, he started to move—

Just to find himself stuck.

Glowering, he looked down and saw a large support beam from the stairs. It was lying across the debris that covered his leg. The pressure was diffuse, however, which was why he hadn’t noticed it before.

Focusing now, he kicked with his legs, putting a surge of energy into pushing up and pulling out. The beam groaned, the debris shifting, but when it all settled, the pressure was more pronounced and Casey was forced to acknowledge that this was actually somewhat problematic.

Still. He was Casey Malick. He trained every day and had honed his body to near perfection. There was no enemy he couldn’t defeat; there was no physical feat that he considered too hard for him to surmount. He could move a piece of wood.

Determined, he channeled his frustration and fostered it into strength. This time, when he moved, he let that strength seep through every pore, effusing and coalescing, until he pushed and pushed and—

The beam lifted—

And the beam fell.

Spent, Casey collapsed back against the ground, winded. His weakness was embarrassing, but he had to acknowledge there was nothing to be done for it. His position on his back gave him no leverage. His head injury was minor, but still significant, and the ache in his side was growing more pronounced, warm blood slick up and down his back. These weren’t huge limitations, but they were, unfortunately, enough.

Enough that he would have to lie here. Pathetic. Injured. To wait for rescue. Michael and Rick would be along soon enough, and maybe Billy—

His mind caught.

He’d forgotten about Billy. It was one of the problems he had when working with a team. Sometimes his sense of self preservation was so well refined that, in situations where his own peril had to be assessed, he literally forgot about his teammates. It wasn’t malicious or cowardice; it was mere survival of the fittest.

But he was more than his evolutionary parameters. He was a teammate, and he did give his all to his team. Which was why he craned his neck, looking through the blackness as best he could. At first, all he could see was more debris, scattered and broken across the concrete basement floor.

“Billy?” he called.

Because Billy would be nearby. He hadn’t been too far away. Given the size of the hole in the ceiling, he should have fallen through, too. It wasn’t that long of a drop, but it was long enough. If he’d landed differently…

He would not give in to idle speculation.

“Billy,” he called again, louder, more sure this time. “Usually I can’t get you to shut up, so by all means, now is no time to start believing that silence is golden.”

There was no reply. The house still creaked, dust still swirled lazily above him. He could see shapes looming, but nothing definitive, nothing that looked human, that looked like Billy.

Grunting, he tried to move, tried to get a better vantage point, but he was still stuck – maybe worse than before – and even with his honed eyesight, seeing anything appeared to be mostly a lost cause.

“Come on, Collins,” he said, almost seething now. “Give me something.

He liked to think it was an order. Or even a simple, plaintive request. He would have to be reduced to conversation and/or begging if this persisted, but he didn’t think his head wound had made him that desperate just yet.

“Billy!” he snarled, entire body tensing in futility.

Then, somewhere to his left, there was a small noise. Then another.

Casey went still, listening. “Billy?”

There was a rush of air, then a lengthy exhalation. “Casey?”

Billy’s voice was quieter than normal, strained and pitchy, but still, it made Casey relax. “About time you woke up,” he chided.

Billy huffed, in what Casey supposed was laughter. “Aye,” he said. “You know how I like to take my time with things.”

“You mean waste time,” Casey snapped back. He paused, wetting his lips. “I don’t suppose you can move, can you?”

There was a silence in return, then a shifting. Billy breathed harshly, and another long silence followed. When Billy spoke, his voice sounded pinched. “I’m afraid not,” he said. “I seem to be stuck.”

Casey sighed. “Me, too.”

There they were. Both stuck, hurt, in the dark. Humiliation at its finest. He was getting old.

Across the room, Billy took another audible breath. “Though I do reckon there is some good news.”

“I’m all ears,” Casey snarked.

“Well,” Billy quipped, “at least this time I get to say I told you so.

Scowling, Casey was glad for the dark to hide his reddening cheeks. Because Billy was right. The house had been rigged; it had been a viable lead, if not to their mark, then to old Soviet ties. They should have been careful, they should have been thorough.

Instead, here they were. Trapped and alone and hurt.

As if Casey needed more reasons to loathe this mission.

-o-

Being stuck and miserable was one thing. Being entirely idle was completely unacceptable.

Shifting, Casey tried to find a position that took some of the pressure of his back, working his legs to a moderately comfortable angle that maintained blood flow as well as could be expected when they were being half crushed by a pile of debris. Once he was duly situated for what was sure to be a long, mortifying wait, he set his focus on the other tasks at hand.

First, the mission. “You know, technically I was still right,” Casey ventured into the darkness.

Across the way, Billy snuffled. “How do you reckon?”

“If our idiot suspect had been here at some point, he would have triggered the explosive himself and we’d be scraping him off this basement floor instead of lying here ourselves,” Casey mused, a little regretful, if not for the idea of avoiding this embarrassing situation, then for the loss of tying up such a ridiculous mission in such a simple fashion.

Billy inhaled, a little unevenly. “You may have a point,” he murmured, more quietly than usual. “Though maybe he knew the layout, knew that the stairs were rigged.”

“Possibly,” Casey conceded. “But unlikely given his complete failure to have a brain until this point.”

That should have at least warranted a chuckle, but apparently Billy was in no mood to be amused. Instead, he seemed to hum in agreement before taking a long moment to speak. “He could have set the trap,” he finally continued.

Casey scoffed. “That explosive was positively archaic,” he said. “Any blast worth setting would have killed us instantly. The fact that we’re still alive means that it’s old and poorly designed.”

This time, Billy did laugh, a quiet, breathy noise in the blackness. “Not so poorly designed that we didn’t fall for it, eh?”

Cross, Casey gritted his teeth together. “If it hadn’t been so dark…”

“Oh, come now,” Billy interjected, with a flash of vigor that suggested he was still annoyingly Billy despite their circumstances. “What happened to the Shadow Warrior and his preference for the night?”

Of course, Billy would remember that. Billy could barely remember to shave in the morning or to file a report properly, but he knew every word of Casey’s that could be used conveniently against him. “You’re lucky that I’m trapped,” Casey said. “Because if not, I would walk over there and shut you up.”

“I am, then, very lucky indeed,” Billy mused.

The irony was too obvious; it was also unsettling.

Which made Casey even angrier. He sighed forcefully, staring up at the hole in the ceiling.

“This is humiliating,” he muttered.

Billy tutted. “Well, there’s another good thing about the dark, then.”

Casey turned his head toward the Scot, looking into the blackness fruitlessly. “I’m not sure I want to know.”

“Well,” Billy said, a hint of humor in his voice, “at least this way no one will see it when you’re blushing.”

-o-

Casey had never been prone to boredom. He was explicitly capable of extreme self control. Boredom was for people who wanted to decay and die prematurely. Since Casey had no such desires, he devoted every spare moment to some sort of meaningful pursuit. Training, education, general tactical edification, pleasure: these were all integrated into his daily routine with the utmost efficiency.

He had no time to be bored.

And yet, here he was. Bored out of his mind with absolutely no recourse. For a few minutes, he’d tried to find his phone, but with the debris sitting the way it was, he’d been unable to unearth it. He’d tried again to maneuver his way out of the rubble, but it had proved futile. He could go over the operational failures that had led to his situation, but that just made things worse. Instead, he decided to lay there and be bored.

He was almost grateful when Billy started talking again.

“You know, in some ways, this is rather fortunate,” he said, his conversational tone lilting in the stillness.

Casey let out a breath. Almost grateful. Except that Billy was a moron sometimes. “How could anything about this be fortunate?”

“We did thoroughly identify a KGB safehouse,” Billy pointed out.

“Bully for us,” Casey snapped. “And we just nearly killed ourselves doing it.”

“Nearly, being the operative word,” Billy returned. Then he hesitated. “You are alright, though, aren’t you?”

“Of course I’m alright!” Casey seethed; the implication was insulting. He was still a capable operative. He was still the best operative the Agency had to offer and was far better suited for any kind of physical challenge than any of his teammates. And he didn’t mean that in a necessarily derogatory way, but he trained. He worked hard. He fought against the odds and his body’s own degrading faculties. “It was nothing but bad luck, and if it weren’t for this support beam, I’d be up and have you out of here and we’d already be securing the site, waiting expectantly for Michael and Martinez.”

There was no quick quip in return. Instead, a small silence lingered before Billy seemed to take a lazy breath. “No doubt,” he said, a little distant.

Casey frowned, trying to turn his head further and search for Billy in the darkness. He was struck with the sudden realization that he hadn’t asked Billy the same. “Are you alright?” he ventured.

“Is that concern?” Billy joked, but the punch line lackluster, even given the circumstances.

Huffing, Casey looked back at the ceiling. “You must be having trouble picking up on my mood without my normal facial cues,” he said. “You need to work on fine tuning your ability to detect vocal variances.”

“I think I do a fair job,” Billy said. He paused, clearing his throat a bit. “Right now, for example, I’m sensing extreme frustration. Probably brought about by your inability to move and your failure to predict this situation. Were we mobile, no doubt you’d be displaying this feeling with displays of overt aggression.”

“Ha!” Casey said sharply. “Wrong. I am frustrated, but more at the fact that we were sent on this ridiculous goose chase to begin with. If I failed at anything, it was not nipping this idiocy in the bud when I had the chance.”

“Ah,” Billy said, sighing, sounding spent. There was a lull. “My mistake, then.”

Settling back down on the ground, Casey nodded smugly. “You bet your ass.”

-o-

Billy was annoying, but he wasn’t boring.

Casey, however, was not certain if that was actually a good or bad thing.

It was something, however, that Casey was counting on. So when the silence extended beyond a few seconds, he found himself growing inexplicably restless.

“You’re being quiet,” he said finally, ignoring a growing by gnawing ache in his lower back.

“Hmm?” Billy asked.

“You’re being quiet,” Casey repeated, more vehemently this time. “You’re never quiet.”

“You always want me to be quiet,” Billy replied.

“Yeah, and you never listen,” Casey said. He tilted his head toward Billy. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

Billy laughed. “We want full disclosure now?”

“I want to be fully apprised of the situation,” Casey said. “Since we’re both trapped and in the dark, we need to be communicating in order to maintain maximum effectiveness.”

“Well, what did you want to talk about?” Billy asked.

Casey pursed his lips. “I thought that was your territory.”

“You have heard most of my best stories,” Billy said. “I mean—“ He broke off, coughing for a second, his voice wavering just slightly as it picked up again. “I had been saving the wild dogs for years, and Martinez’s unfortunate incident in South America has rendered it obsolete now.”

Grimacing, Casey shook his head. “We don’t have to be pointless in our conversation,” he said. “There are ways to be constructive. Tell me about how you’re trapped and maybe we can work out a solution to free you.”

“The ever-practical Casey Malick.”

“Tell me,” Casey said.

“Mate, it’s dark—“

Casey glowered. “Tell me,” he ordered this time.

Billy sighed, and when he spoke, there was resignation in his voice. “It’s a…section of the wall.”

Casey considered that. “From upstairs.”

“Not that I can tell,” he said. “Unless they used concrete for insulation.”

At that, Casey turned his head again, forgetting that it was pointless. “You’re trapped under concrete?” he asked. “Part of the basement collapsed?”

“Best I can gather, yes,” Billy said. “Though it doesn’t seem to be sagging much. I’m wondering if it’s a bomb shelter…”

That made sense, actually. In fact, it should have been something Casey had been looking for when they first identified this as a possible safehouse.

Of course, Casey hadn’t thought it was a safehouse…

But that wasn’t the point for now. The point was—

Well, for now, the point was Billy. Who was trapped under concrete. “Is it in pieces?” Casey asked.

Billy chortled, the soft noise tapering off into a cough. After a tight breath, he seemed to be speaking more carefully. “Parts,” he said. “One of the bigger slabs got me, I’m afraid.”

Casey’s face set grimly. So much for talking Billy out of his predicament. He was likely worse off than Casey. Which—

“How badly are you injured?” he demanded.

Billy sighed wearily. “I told you—“

“No, you deflected,” Casey said shortly. “You’re trapped under concrete. What kind of damage has been done? Can you feel your legs?”

Billy groaned. “Aye, every inch of them and every bruise and contusion as an added bonus. It’s all in working order.”

“Is the concrete pinning your legs? Or your stomach or chest?” Casey pushed.

“Why, Casey, this is concern.”

“Answer the question, Collins,” Casey snapped.

“My chest and abdomen are clear,” he said. “I reckon I have more movement than you. I can see you there, flailing about in the dark.”

At this, Casey’s frown deepened. “You can see me?”

“I’m assuming it’s you, anyway,” Billy said. “Bit hard to tell in the dark, but the movements correspond with your sparkling conversation.”

Casey looked back to the ceiling. “I hate you.”

“I’m getting mixed signals here,” Billy said. “You love me, you love me not…make up your mind, man.”

And Casey suddenly pined for boredom once again.

-o-

Casey had an infallible sense of time. Though he was aware that he had lost an undetermined amount of time due to unconsciousness, he was keenly aware that no more than thirty minutes had passed since he’d come to.

In reality, twenty minutes wasn’t so long. Michael and Rick would be making good time to this location, and if they’d tried to call and received no reply that would only increase their haste. This worked inexorably in Casey’s favor, and he took some solace in knowing that he would not be pinned miserably for an indefinite amount of time.

But thirty minutes, trapped and humiliated and with Billy – it might as well have been torture.

“I need to move,” Casey announced, fidgeting uselessly.

“Mmm,” Billy mused in the dark. “I’d prefer that myself, too.”

Casey flared his nostrils, trying to ignore the throbbing in his head. It had picked up over the last ten minutes, no doubt exacerbated by the fact that Casey had no other viable outlets for his growing energy and aggression. “Being idle makes me mad.”

“Everything—“ Billy paused, clearing his throat, “makes you mad.” He paused again, seeming to take a heavy breath. “And besides, I wouldn’t call being trapped idle.

“We’re lying here uselessly,” Casey retorted. “What else do you call it?”

“Ensuring that we don’t aggravate our wounds any further?”

“I’m fine,” Casey said.

“We got blown up,” Billy said. “Somehow I doubt that.”

Casey turned his head, glaring as best he could into the dark. “I’m fine,” he repeated vigorously. “And so are you. It’s pathetic – lying here like we need to be rescued.”

“Ah,” Billy said softly. “Reckon it doesn’t bother me as much.” He coughed lightly, audibly swallowing. “Nice to…mix things up a bit. Rick would make a noble knight in shining armor.”

“I’m not going to lie here and talk about your warped fairy tale fantasies,” Casey said. He made a face at the thought. “Especially when it involves Martinez rescuing us. Or anyone.”

“You’re human, Casey,” Billy said, a bit resigned. “You may as well…accept that.”

“I acknowledge it with disdain,” he said. “Though I do everything in my power to counteract that.”

“And you are impressive,” Billy said, then he stopped with a wheezy breath. “None of us will hold this against you, yeah?”

There was something oddly somber in Billy’s voice. In fact, the Scot wasn’t acting normal at all. Too serious; too cooperative; too quiet.

Still annoying, though.

“Just because you have lower standards, doesn’t mean that I do,” Casey replied.

“This is true,” Billy said fondly. “I’m glad to – to have had the opportunity to serve with such greatness.”

“Are you mocking me?”

“Never.”

Casey’s brow furrowed in the dark.

“Well,” Billy relented. “Not now, anyway.”

Casey worked his jaw, wriggling his toes just to retain some sense of control. His eyes flitted to the hole in the ceiling and thought.

And thought.

Because Billy was telling the truth. He meant it. He respected Casey; he joked and ribbed and he respected him anyway. He didn’t think this was Casey’s fault, and maybe it wasn’t. But it sure felt that way.

Lying useless on his back, the human weapon had been rendered pointless. He was a gun without bullets, and unsharpened sword. The fact that Billy was telling the truth…

Made all of this so much worse.

-o-

Casey had memorized the entirety of his vantage point. He’d mentally sketched out the remaining space, giving himself a strong visual with which to work for when he did manage to get out of this mess.

That took him approximately ten minutes.

Forty minutes.

Casey sighed.

“So weary,” Billy said lightly. He’d been mercifully silent on and off, which had given Casey the chance to think. “Funny how the bottom just falls out, and here we are.”

Casey rolled his eyes. “I don’t have time for bad puns and supposedly quaint comparisons.”

“I think we have all the time for exactly that,” Billy said. He broke off, a cough rattling the distance between them. “I mean – what else are we going to do?”

That was an appropriate question.

Which was probably why it just pissed Casey off even more. This was a waste of time, and it was such a waste of time that he had to waste more time to get through it.

“We should be searching this basement,” Casey said. “I mean, if they left explosives, they may have left other traces behind. I mean, can you see inside the safe room?”

There was a faint rustling, then a sharp intake of air. “If I turned far enough, perhaps,” Billy said. “But I – I think it’s probably best if I stay still.”

Casey frowned. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I didn’t think you considered…my general disposition to ever be…okay,” Billy replied, a little strained this time.

Casey rolled his eyes. Billy was joking; Billy was being ridiculous.

That was about as normal as things got.

“I was speaking relatively,” Casey said.

Billy seemed to exhale, long and slow. “Then, relatively, I’m fine.”

“You’re being purposefully obtuse,” Casey observed. “You could consider that I’m trying to help you for once.”

“A noble gesture,” Billy said, voice dropping in cadence in tone.

In the blackness, Casey waited for a reply. For more. Finally, he asked, “That’s it? No witty comeback? Just a noble gesture?”

“Ah, well,” Billy said. “You’ve had a rough night.”

Casey’s face contorted. “Now you’re taking pity on me?” he asked in disgust. “Insult to injury.”

“Not my intention, I assure you,” Billy murmured.

Somehow, Casey was not assured.

-o-

At fifty minutes, Casey was ready to kill someone. True, this wasn’t actually a very unusual impulse for Casey; he found that people, in general, were tedious and superfluous. But this time, the urge was stronger than normal, at least harder to control.

So he wanted to kill someone. Preferably an active terrorist, but a convicted felon would do acceptably as well.

Casey just needed to do something.

And Billy wasn’t helping.

Overall, Billy was usually unhelpful. That was just in his nature, and Casey had learned that the Scot took great pride in generally being problematic for Casey. He’d come to realize that the more Casey let Billy annoy him, the more Billy seemed to invest in the effort, so forced indifference and demeaning condescension had become his patented response to Billy’s useless overtures.

But Billy did have some merits, and Casey was aware of that even if he only acknowledge that fact on excessively rare occasions. The fact was, however, that the Scot was good at talking his way in and out of trouble. The ODS had charmed their way through more checkpoints than Casey could keep track of, and Billy’s flair for using people to get the job done without causing problems was actually pretty impressive, if Casey was going to be honest.

Not that he was going to be honest. Because for every helpful moment, Billy had five in which he was the most difficult person on the face of the earth.

Such as now.

Instead of supplying colorful - if vaguely stupid - chit chat, maintaining a conversation with the Scot was a bit like pulling teeth.

In a bad way. Casey had pulled a few teeth in what he considered were positive experiences, but that wasn’t overly relevant to the situation at hand.

Besides, why the hell was Billy being quiet now?

“You’re being stupid,” Casey said finally, breaking the silence. The darkness had fallen deeper somehow, settling with the dust as the house seemed to meld into the night.

“Sorry?” Billy said, sounding more confused than he should have.

“You’re being stupid,” Casey repeated, more sullen this time. “Of all the times for you to pick to be quiet…”

“Ah,” Billy said, musing softly. He made a small noise in the back of his throat. “I would have thought – night like tonight – you’d have, ah, preferred the quiet.”

“And I’m to believe that you’re being silent for my benefit?” Casey snapped, the pure ridiculousness of it almost too much to articulate.

Airily, Billy chuckled, a wet, grating sound in the black. “Aye, you have a point,” he said.

“So, why?” Casey pressed.

“Well, it is past my bedtime,” Billy returned.

“Liar.”

“As if I’d deny that,” Billy said. “Though I am somewhat – lost in thought.”

Casey snorted. “Now that’s a scary prospect,” he joked. His eyes flickered across the ceiling. He hesitated, but ultimately decided that motivating pointless conversation in his given situation was understandable, if not forgivable. “Anything you care to share?”

“Just contemplating – our—“ He broke off with a choking noise, but recovered quickly. “—our imminent rescue.”

Casey set his lips, chagrined. “It better be imminent,” he muttered, moving a little and relishing the pain in his side. He could use pain – he would use pain – it would keep him grounded and angry long enough to get out of this with his dignity. “Though Michael and I will have words over the complete lack of organization on this mission. I know he has his own unique mission style, but this is ridiculous.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Billy said. “We have to be – to be thorough.” He paused, silence lilting for a brief second. “Saves lives.”

“I beg to differ,” Casey said pointedly.

Billy chuffed. “Point taken.”

“And besides, the fact that our mark got away is simply unacceptable. We shouldn’t have needed to be thorough if we’d done the job right to begin with.”

“In retrospect,” Billy started, seeming to heave for air, “I may – agree with you.”

Casey turned his head in futility. “You agree with me?”

“Stranger things,” Billy said, voice drifting a little. “You know, our situation will help – prove our point. Not even – Michael Dorset – can argue with – dying men.”

“I’m not dying,” Casey snapped.

“Right,” Billy said, air moving thickly between them. “My mistake.”

-o-

Casey wasn’t dying.

He was injured – annoyingly and stupidly – but he would survive his own weakness and his team’s incompetence. There would unfortunately be hospital time involved – a sign of helplessness he usually avoided at all costs – but nothing he could feel seemed to indicate any lasting damage. He was hurt, embarrassed, bored, miserable and more – but he wasn’t dying.

But he was beginning to wonder about Billy.

There were the small tells – the wheezing, the coughing fits, the odd pauses – but it was the more dramatic things that Casey could no longer ignore.

Silences. Too long, too plentiful.

“You’re hurt,” Casey announced finally, having come to the conclusion with ample certainty.

“Aye,” Billy said. “As are you.”

“No,” Casey said, watching stray particles of dust dance in and out of the lone moonbeam that he could still see. “You’re really hurt.”

“Well, we fell through the floor—“

“No,” Casey snapped, jerking his head in Billy’s general direction. “You’re hurt and you’re not telling me the whole story.”

There was a prolonged silence, then Billy sighed again, like air from a bellows. “Everything generally hurts,” he acknowledged.

“So why are you breathing heavy?” Casey demanded. “The coughing – that’s more than bumps and bruises.”

“Well, I did inhale a generous amount of the dust when the wall here fell on me,” Billy said. “And I admit, I’m feeling a bit slower than normal – took a knock to my head, I’m afraid.”

“So no real damage there,” Casey concluded.

Billy chuckled. “No, I reckon not.”

“I’m saying that doesn’t explain it,” Casey persisted. “There are other significant injuries impairing you, and I demand to know what they are.”

“Well, seeing as I’m trapped in the dark, I’m afraid I can’t provide much more specific,” Billy said, a little short now. “There are sundry ailments I’m sure, and I am regretful to think of a hospital stay overseas, but it does seem inevitable, does it not?”

“You’re deflecting,” Casey said, refusing to be distracted, eyes piercing the darkness.

“You doubt me?” Billy returned. “I’m wounded. Literally.”

“You’re not funny,” Casey said.

“But right,” Billy said.

Casey took a breath, holding it in his lungs, letting the pressure build up until he had a control over his roiling emotions once again. Billy knew what buttons to push, and he pushed them with a relish. He couldn’t let the Scot get one up on him, and not only for Casey’s already wounded pride. But because he needed to know.

For the mission.

And maybe because he cared.

But mostly for the mission, if anyone was asking.

Jaw locked, he let the breath out and sought for calm. “I need a full picture to know what we’re dealing with. Your usual deflection and creative truths are no longer appropriate or helpful.”

This time, when Billy sighed, it was weary, tired. “There’s nothing you can do anyway,” Billy said, drawing a ragged breath. “Last I checked, you were trapped, too.”

“I still need to be fully armed with all the information,” Casey said, his tone entirely no nonsense now. With this focus firmly in place, it was easier to forget his own pain. He needed purpose; he needed something to do. “So tell me about your injuries.”

“It’s a lovely sentiment, but that’s all I know,” Billy said. He coughed, gagging slightly.

Casey was not going to be dissuaded. “Tell me.”

“You’re welcome to come check for yourself,” Billy offered.

Casey glowered. “That’s stupid.”

“Indeed,” Billy agreed, voice tapering off a bit now. “But that’s also our situation right now, whether we like it or not.”

The thing was, Billy was right. Casey hated when the Scot was right under any circumstances, but this was even more bothersome than usual. Because this was Casey’s powerlessness. It was Casey, being entirely human. Casey, being incapable. Not enough.

Casey was getting old.

Casey was getting obsolete.

Casey was…average.

And that hurt more than anything else. More than his back, more than his head. More than his wounded pride. Casey lived his life at 100 percent, with the belief that he was good enough to overcome anything.

The problem was, that wasn’t true.

“It’s not your fault,” Billy added after several moments of silence. He inhaled and seemed to waver for a moment.

Trapped in the dark, Casey didn’t know what to say.

So instead he stared up, blinking in the darkness, and this time said nothing at all.

PART TWO

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: October 15th, 2012 03:58 am (UTC)

I totally love this!! It's wonderful how you have Billy and Casey interacting in this! Billy trying to keep how badly injured he is from Casey so as to not burden him, Casey's admission that he kind of misses Billy's nattering and how he judges Billy's well-being by how quiet he was. Just lovely! Their friendship is so authentic. You just nail it!

Fave Parts:


“But I know you,” Billy continued, one foot cautiously on the floorboards of the rickety porch. “I know that somewhere, deep inside that black soul of yours, there is a light burning bright.” He gave Casey a reaffirming nod. “It shines brighter than the rest of us, no matter how hard you try to hide it.”

Casey edged past Billy, moving to the door with soft footfalls. He paused, listening. Then he looked at Billy tersely. “Don’t count on it.”

--I love Billy's faith and belief here.

Billy’s eyes searched the black. “I can’t say it’s my first choice, actually,” he said. Then he shook his head. “Something just feels…off. Don’t you think?”

--I love how you portray Billy's instincts here. Sometimes we forget that beyond the joviality is a skilled spy with honed instincts.

It was something, however, that Casey was counting on. So when the silence extended beyond a few seconds, he found himself growing inexplicably restless.

“You’re being quiet,” he said finally, ignoring a growing by gnawing ache in his lower back.

“Hmm?” Billy asked.

“You’re being quiet,” Casey repeated, more vehemently this time. “You’re never quiet.”

“You always want me to be quiet,” Billy replied.

“Yeah, and you never listen,” Casey said. He tilted his head toward Billy. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

Billy laughed. “We want full disclosure now?”

-- I love this silly conversation! It reveals so much!





Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 16th, 2012 07:44 pm (UTC)
chaos rick

I loved all the characters in this show a lot, but that Billy/Casey dynamic was always the most fun and the most special, I think. They were opposites in so many ways and yet they so clearly cared about each other. They were perfect foils and perfect partners. And showing Casey's vulnerability in fic is so much fun -- especially since that usually involves hurting Billy :)

Thanks!

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