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Chaos fic: Run for Your Life (If You Can) 2/3

November 8th, 2012 (06:33 am)
disappointed

feeling: disappointed

PART ONE (A)
PART ONE (B)
PART TWO
PART THREE



PART TWO

In Billy’s time with the ODS, he had come to accept that the ridiculous and improbable were commonplace. In truth, it was hard to say whether or not the ODS sought out such situations or if they simply had the kind of luck to attract it, but near-death, peril and other sundry horrible experiences were things that Billy had to expect.

Like, falling down a hill while running from drug dealers.

Or being knocked out and used for bait to subdue said drug dealers.

So really, a snake appearing out of nowhere to strike probably wasn’t so unexpected or outlandish in the grand scheme of things, but Billy had to admit, he hadn’t seen it coming.

To be fair, though, Billy hadn’t seen a lot of things coming. Otherwise he wouldn’t have broken his leg in the first place. He wouldn’t have got himself kicked out of MI6, either. Clearly, Billy had more than a few lapses in his history, and this time, it was sheer luck that he wasn’t the one nursing a pair of fang marks on his calf.

Well, less luck. More idiocy.

“You got bit,” Billy said, aware of how pathetic he sounded but unable to think of much else.

Michael grimaced, craning his neck to get a better look. “Yeah,” he said. “I know.”

Billy blinked, watching as the blood trickled down, staining the top of Michael’s white sock. “You got bit saving me,” he realized.

“Yeah,” Michael said, wincing as he fingered the bite. “I know that, too.”

For a moment, Billy could only gape, his higher reasoning temporarily stymied by the pain and the sheer improbability of this turn of events.

Face tight, Michael reached around, picking up the water bottle again. Unscrewing the cap, he ran some over the wound, flushing it out as best he could. Then, putting the water aside, he shrugged off his overshirt, promptly ripping off a portion.

Billy watched – too stupefied to move – as his team leader promptly bandaged the wound, tying it off quickly before looking back up at Billy.

“So,” he said. “You think you’re willing to come without throwing a fit this time?”

Furrowing his brow, Billy scoffed. “You were just bit by a snake.”

“Do you have a concussion to go with that broken leg?” Michael asked. “We covered that part.”

“But should you really be walking on it?” Billy asked, gesturing in futility at Michael.

“There’s a decent chance it’s not poisonous,” Michael said. “And if it is, then sitting here will just mean I’ll have to wait longer to get the antivenin.”

That sounded…somewhat reasonable. Which was almost more mind-boggling than anything else. “But isn’t there something we should do?”

“Next time, we should try not to flail through the jungle where highly poisonous snakes are,” Michael suggested. “Oh, and maybe we should try not to fall down hills.”

“You’re mocking me,” Billy realized.

Michael shrugged coolly. “Just stating the facts.”

Billy snorted, indignant. “And here I thought maybe we’d turned a corner in our relationship,” he sulked. “If you want to go, then go. I’ll still slow you down.”

Michael rolled his eyes, pulling his pack back on. “Are we ever going to get past that?”

Chin out, Billy shook his head defiantly. “If you think I’m nothing but a screw up, then you should go,” he said tersely. Because he was tired, and if things were going to end poorly, he’d rather face that now, and not later. There was no point in prolonging it. No reason to endure more than he already had. It was time to sever ties, time to cut losses, time to end it. “Just bloody go. If that thing is venomous, then you don’t have time to be hauling me around.”

“Maybe,” Michael said, getting to his feet. He hesitated for a moment, eyes looking out at the jungle even as he eased the weight off his injured leg.

For a moment, Billy thought Michael had finally seen sense, reached his breaking point. Helping Billy was noble to a certain point, but there was no need to be suicidal. And at this point, dragging along a lame Scotsman very well could be suicidal. There was no point in dying for a man he didn’t like. Michael Dorset was a paranoid bastard, not a stupid one. He’d shown some better parts of valor, but Billy had seen Michael for the plotter that he was. Staying with Billy now – wasn’t worth the risk.

There was a cold certainty to that notion; a reassuring rejection. A validation of his doubts and his fears and his own worthlessness.

But then Michael looked at Billy, expression clouded for a moment, before settling on resignation. He reached his hand out. “But it’s a chance I guess I’ll have to take.”

Billy stared, looking first at the hand, then at Michael’s face. Calm, certain. Unyielding. “Why?” he asked, all anger gone, disbelief the only thing he had left.

“Because letting you die might be easier, but it’s not better,” Michael said. “We’ve all made mistakes, Collins. The question is how we learn from them. This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. Trust me when I say you don’t want to learn it that way either.”

Head still spinning, stomach still weak, Billy frowned in disconcertment. Maybe it was the pain; maybe it was the fever, but he didn’t understand.

He didn’t understand at all.

And yet, Michael’s hand never moved.

It was stupid. Moronic, idiotic, foolish, daft, mad – and yet there it was. Billy wasn’t worth it, and even he knew that. He wouldn’t stay for Michael. Come back for him, sure, but stay? When his own life was on the line?

For a relative stranger? For a spy with a questionable background? For the new guy?

Michael still waited. He would wait there forever, Billy realized. He would die there with Billy on principle alone.

Stupid, moronic, idiotic, foolish, daft, mad – and uncompromising.

Billy could resign both of them to certain death.

Or give them a fighting chance.

When he reached out and took Michael’s hand, he wasn’t sure of his reason. If he was doing this somehow to save Michael’s life, to make sure the man took the initiative to get the hell out.

Or if he was still doing it for himself, because no matter how much he hated his life, he was still afraid to die.

-o-

It hurt as much as it did before – each step a veritable agony, threatening his consciousness and stealing his breath – but he kept it at bay with every ounce of self control he had. He bit down hard, feeling his teeth grind together and keeping his eyes open to keep the unshed tears from falling. Because this wasn’t just about him anymore.

That was a strange thing, and something of a revelation. His broken leg would have been a death sentence if not for Michael Dorset, and even if Billy didn’t understand why the man had taken pity on him, Billy was now in the uncomfortable position of owing the man his life.

More than that, Billy was too aware of how every breath seemed to be a struggle for Michael now, too. How each time Billy shifted his weight across Michael’s shoulders, the older man stifled a grunt, pressing his lips together in a thin line as he tried to control his own pain response.

That could be nothing, Billy told himself. They were tired and worn and hiking through extreme heat. Billy was increasingly putting more weight on Michael, so the strain was perhaps entirely to be expected. Innocuous even. For all Billy knew, it could be the tendrils of Michael’s self control slowly ebbing away as Billy’s failure and weakness started to drain them both.

Yet, Billy still heard the small catch of his breathing. Still felt his shoulders shudder. If it was more than the general circumstance, if the snake had been venomous…

Then Billy’s broken leg was a death sentence for them both.

Still, Michael didn’t slow, and this time, Billy refused to let himself give in either. Because if Michael was going to make such a Herculean effort, Billy owed it to him to do the same. They were fighting against an invisible clock now, one that Michael refused to acknowledge and one that Billy was too ashamed to mention. Because if the snake had been poisonous, then time was of the essence. Billy could fend off the fever for a while, but venom was another story.

Of course, the exertion of half-dragging Billy through the woods would only make Michael’s injury worse. With his heart rate elevated, his blood would be moving faster, speeding up any ill effects should they take hold. Not only had Michael risked his life for Billy, but he was likely decreasing his odds of survival with every lurching step they took.

With so much attention on Michael, Billy found the task of moving marginally easier. Or, at least, not as soul-sucking.

Still, he did have an untreated broken leg and the start of infection while traipsing through the jungle in Venezuela. He had passed out more times than he could count, and that was taking a toll on him.

But suddenly, he found himself unable to decide which concerned him more: dying in the jungle for his own stupidity or having Michael die for him and having to explain to the rest of the ODS how he’d broken his leg and got Michael killed.

If Casey and Carson didn’t kill him, Higgins would sack him, and this time he’d have nowhere to go. Where would he end up? Canada? Australia? Some lesser country as a mercenary for hire?

The thought was numbing.

Or the cumulative effects of his injury were numbing.

Either way, Billy found himself gasping for air, advancing with a nearly drunken gait.

“This is stupid,” he huffed, not sure if he’d said that out loud or just imagined it.

“Yeah,” Michael agreed, not missing a beat. He sounded a little breathless, even if his grip on Billy didn’t waver. “I can’t say this is one of my…better missions.”

Billy willed himself to keep moving, blinking rapidly to control the encroaching darkness on his vision. He shook his head. “Then why are you still here?” he asked.

“You really are having a hard time with that one, aren’t you?” Michael returned.

Billy was tired; he was hurt. His self control had worn thin, and he had nothing left. “You should go.”

“You won’t be able to defend yourself,” Michael said.

“But you already neutralized the threat,” Billy countered insistently. “You’ve taken care of everything – except yourself. This is…” He paused, swallowing a cry as his leg dinged the ground. “…stupid.”

“We leave together,” Michael repeated, the same mantra he’d had since Billy broke his leg.

“You can come back for me,” Billy tried, because if this thing went poorly, if Michael had been envenomed, then Billy didn’t want to be responsible. He couldn’t…if Michael died…

Of all the things he’d considered, that hadn’t even been on his radar. Maybe if it had, this wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have run ahead and broken his leg, he wouldn’t have lashed out and startled the snake. He wouldn’t be here.

“That’s a risk I can’t take,” Michael told him.

“But walking out together could get us both killed!” Billy said.

Michael’s grip tightened, fingers fisting in Billy’s shirt even as his face was flushed and sweaty. He shook his head, eyes fixed ahead. “I like to control the variables,” he explained. “Leaving you behind, it’s too risky.”

“Not for you,” Billy returned with an indignant snort. “We’re spies. Survival is in our own hands. If you let yourself be compromised, then no one will bring you home.”

“You really still think that?” Michael asked. “After all this?”

Billy squeezed his eyes shut, breathing hot and fast even as Michael pulled him along. That was what he’d thought; that was the lesson he’d learned.

But on his own, he’d fallen down a hill and broken his leg. On his own, he’d probably be dead.

Instead, here he was. Alive, against the odds. Employed, getting out.

Because of Michael Dorset.

Billy hated it. He hated it so much it almost made him sick.

And yet, he couldn’t turn it away. He couldn’t fight it.

What could he do? Be ungrateful? Be spiteful? Or accept the gift he could never repay? The gift of a second chance, the gift of a new shot on life?

Everything hurt, from his leg to his head to his chest. And not just from the physical pain. But from the emotion—

Everything.

He opened his eyes, shaking his head. “I don’t understand.”

“Well,” Michael said, and his face was drawn now, eyes a little unfocused. He wavered, and Billy scrambled to brace himself as they teetered. “Maybe you’ll figure it out.”

And with that, Michael’s legs crumpled and he went down. The downward momentum threw Billy off kilter, and he had no way of stopping himself – or Michael – as he tumbled down after.

-o-

Billy wanted to pass out. In all actuality, it would have been easier. What with the unrelenting pain, building and stealing his breath and causing him general amounts of overwhelming agony – passing out would certainly be the easier option.

And Billy wasn’t one to suffer needlessly. He wasn’t one to endure things willingly when there were easier options to entertain. To his mind, spies didn’t survive by having self-sacrificial martyr complexes. They survived by being better and having the most dogged will to survive.

So maybe that was why he clung tenaciously to consciousness.

Or maybe this time, it was guilt. As nagging and unrelenting as the pain was, he knew that if he’d gone down, then Michael had dropped him.

If Michael had dropped him, then Michael had gone down, too.

If Michael had gone down…

Then things were bad. Because Michael Dorset, in addition to be a paranoid bastard, was a nonsensical sort of spy, who apparently had decided to put Billy’s life ahead of his own. The only reason Billy had got this far was for Michael’s good graces, and if Michael was unconscious…

Well, that was Billy’s fault.

Just like everything was Billy’s fault.

Self-flagellation aside, he had to wake up—

The pure determination alone willed his eyes open with a white hot stab of pain. He choked, swallowing hard and blinking through his tears. Even then, it took him a long moment, panting and trembling, before his vision was clear enough to see.

The jungle all around. His splinted leg.

He turned, his heart thumping in his chest, until he saw Michael.

The leader of the ODS was sprawled on the ground next to him, face down in the brush. He was moving slightly, breathing in rapid inhalations that made his back rise and fall, even as he tried to curl up on his side.

Locking his jaw, Billy scooted as best he could, his bad leg bouncing uncomfortably on the ground as he tried to get to a better position. “Michael,” he called. “Hey—“

Michael didn’t reply, but by the time Billy got close enough, the older operative was on his side. His face was flushed, a sheen of sweat glistening brightly. His hair was damp at the temples, mouth open as he gasped for air.

Billy swallowed back his question, not even sure what he wanted to ask. What he wanted to do. Instead, he hovered awkwardly, hand out but not touching as Michael sucked in desperate breaths and focused glassy eyes on Billy.

“So,” Michael said, wheezing more than a little, “guess that answers the question about whether or not the snake was poisonous.”

Billy stared. It was a joke, but it wasn’t funny. Nothing about this was funny. Not the mission, not the snakebite, not Billy’s broken leg. Not the ODS, not Billy’s deportation. Billy’s entire life was a joke that no one was laughing at.

And Billy wanted to run. He needed to run. He wanted to get out, get away. Now.

But he had a broken leg. And Michael had a snakebite and it was Billy’s fault.

The instinct was strong, but Billy fought it back. With difficulty, he swallowed again, offering the semblance of a wan smile. “Aye,” he agreed. “I reckon it would be selfish of me to keep all the dramatics to myself on this mission.”

Michael chuffed a laugh. “Was that a joke?”

Billy raised his eyebrows, shrugged. “Maybe humor doesn’t translate well across the pond.”

“No,” Michael said, shaking his head. “In all the months you’ve been here, I haven’t heard you joke.”

Billy hadn’t thought about that, but it didn’t surprise him. Back home, he’d been big into jokes. He’d like to tell stories, to make people laugh. He’d charmed women and made friends easily. He’d been the life of the party, quick to break out the guitar, always with a ready-made tale for any situation. He’d been sociable and liked and respected…

But that had been before that last mission with MI6, before the investigation and the inquiry and the charges and the plea deal. Before he’d taken the coward’s way out, sacrificing his name to salvage his life. Before he’d wound up desperate and pathetic and under the charge of Michael Dorset. He hadn’t had anything to joke about since then.

This wasn’t about him, though.

His smile wavered, but he shrugged. “Maybe I’ve just never had cause,” he said. “You have to admit, it’s a mite funny. CIA mastermind, felled by a snake in the jungle. It’s got one hell of a punch line.”

Michael chuckled, face twisting with a grimace. “It does have an unexpected bite,” he said, gasping as he reached down to stabilize his leg.

Billy looked down. Michael’s calf was still wrapped with a piece of his overshirt. “Maybe we ought to have a look…”

Michael shifted, sitting up a bit more. “We already know what the problem is,” he said, matter of fact.

Billy didn’t deny it, but instead moved himself down, leaning over Michael’s leg. “Perhaps,” he said, picking gently at the tattered fabric. He pulled at the ripped pant leg to get a better look. “But it will be useful to gauge just how far advanced the problem is.”

It was Michael’s turn to be surprised. “You know something about snakebites?”

Billy forced a laugh. “I’m a spy,” he said, carefully turning the leg toward him. “One of MI6’ best. It’s hard not to be a jack of all trades.”

Michael winced but didn’t pull away. “I know,” he said. “I read your file.”

“Ah,” Billy said, putting the fabric back in place. “Well, don’t believe everything you read, mate.”

“The good stuff was redacted,” Michael said. Then he shrugged. “It told me enough.”

“And you hired me anyway?”

Michael shrugged, but glanced at his leg and pointedly changed the topic. “So how’s it look?”

Under most circumstances, Billy would have been grateful for the change in topic. After all, discussing his flame out of a career and his indebtedness to the CIA was not his favorite subject. But Michael’s leg wasn’t exactly something he wanted to discuss either.

Because Michael’s leg was a mess. Swollen and red, it was disfigured, already affected by whatever venom had been injected. It had been hot to the touch, clearly infected and getting worse.

And there was nothing Billy could do. Broken bones could be set, blood flow could be stemmed, but venom? Billy was powerless to stop it.

Mostly, Billy was powerless.

But there was nowhere to run.

With as much affectation as he could muster, he shrugged. “Like a snakebite,” he said. “A little antivenin and I’m sure you’ll be right as rain long before me.”

In theory, that was true. Assuming they got out of the jungle in time.

Which was a big assumption.

Worry twisted in his gut, but Michael just nodded. “Okay,” he said. “So we need to figure out our next move.”

Billy couldn’t help but snort. “You’ve been bitten by a poisonous snake,” he said. “And I’ve got a broken leg. I’m not sure we’ll be making any move soon.”

Michael’s lips twisted up into a sardonic smile. “I know you seem to be a bit of a slow learner, so we’ll call this lesson number one,” he said. “You’re never out of moves. The moment you think you are, that’s the moment you’re dead.”

-o-

Michael had a plan.

“We’ll hole up, make camp,” he said. He nodded to the surrounding trees. “This isn’t too bad of a spot. We have good visibility so if someone unfriendly comes our way, we’ll at least have a fighting chance but it’s unlikely that Casey or Carson would miss us when they scout this way.”

Billy stared at him, wondering if this was a legitimate proposal or if Michael had gone and lost his mind.

Michael shrugged, face pinched as he continued. “We may still be waiting for the night, though, so we’ll want to get settled as best we can. A fire is probably out, but I’m hoping it won’t get too cold. We have enough provisions for a day or two, which is all we’ll need.”

“Mate, starving to death is the least of your concerns,” he interjected finally.

Michael blinked at him, eyes still lucid even if fever bright. He was staring at Billy as though he were the one who was mad.

“You’ve got venom coursing through your body!” Billy exclaimed, gesturing toward his leg. “Granted, we don’t know what species or how much, but given how fast it’s come up on you already, I don’t think you’ll be awake enough in the morning to worry about eating.”

Michael’s eyes narrowed, regarding Billy carefully. “Like you said, we don’t know,” he said. “We plan for the contingencies.”

“Oh, I’m all for contingencies,” Billy said. “But you’re glossing over the small but fairly important detail where you’re more likely to die from the venom than anything else.”

Closing his mouth, Michael worked his jaw. “Did you have a better solution?”

Billy nodded, scoffing. “Run.”

Michael cocked his head.

Billy gestured toward the jungle. “Use what strength you have left and run like hell,” he said. “The farther you get, the better your odds are. You won’t have much time when Casey and Carson find you, so you’ll want to get as much distance as possible. If you start now before the venom has any more effect, you might make it most of the way before it takes you down.”

Michael shook his head. “I might be able to get a little farther with your weight, but not much,” he said. “No, our best bet is to make camp.”

“No, your best bet is to run without lugging me beside you,” Billy said.

“And what, just leave you here?”

“Oh, don’t start on that rubbish again,” Billy said sharply. “This whole brothers-in-arms things is admirable, but it’s not worth your life. You don’t have to die just because I lost my head and fell down a hill.”

“And you don’t have to die either,” Michael countered.

Billy groaned. “The broken leg won’t kill me,” he said. “You can coerce Carson to come back for me when you meet up with them. He’s the only one among you that doesn’t seem to loathe my presence with every ounce of his being.”

“We don’t loathe you,” Michael said.

“No, you just love to torture me,” Billy agreed. “I’m beginning to understand it as a sadistic kind of affection.”

“Hey, I’m still here,” Michael reminded him.

He was. Against all odds, to Billy’s total frustration, Michael was still here. “I might appreciate the sentiment were it not so foolhardy,” he said. “Just go. I would, in a heartbeat.”

It was a gruff confession, almost crass as he let the words escape, charging the distance between them. But he couldn’t take it back – he wouldn’t. It was true. Even now that he hated himself for it, it was true.

Michael watched him, his mouth closing and his posture stiffening. “I know,” he replied, a little quiet.

There was no condemnation; no accusation. There was no blistering critique or demeaning poke. Michael had every right to lambast Billy, to call him the miserable excuse for a teammate and colleague and representative of the CIA that he was, but he didn’t.

Maybe because Michael had known all along. Maybe because the man had read his file and raked him across the coals every chance he got. Maybe all he’d wanted was the admission, for Billy to realize that his place on the team was something he’d never earn, not just because he was an MI6 reject, but because he just wasn’t good enough.

Or maybe it was more than that. What, Billy wasn’t sure anymore, but none of it made sense. Why they would ridicule and mock him, why they would treat him poorly and trick him. Maybe not just condemnation; maybe a chance to rise above. Maybe second chances weren’t free, but painstakingly carved out from the ruins. Maybe to teach him his place; maybe to help him discover it.

Maybe trust wasn’t earned within the Agency; maybe it was owned.

Maybe it was proven.

If Michael Dorset wanted to be an impossible, paranoid bastard, Billy could play that game. After all, he hadn’t risen to the top of MI6 by being a wallflower. Nor had he managed to secure a job at the CIA for a lack of fortitude.

Traitor, rookie, rascal: he was all that. And maybe, today, he could be more.

Or, at the very least, he could make sure that Michael Dorset lived and gave them both another chance to work this mess out, one way or another.

Billy set his jaw, taking a deep breath, rallying his courage along with his conviction. “This is madness,” he said, struggling to prop himself, trying to get to his feet. It was a cumbersome process, and his leg protested, but Billy gritted his teeth and pushed through.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Michael asked, somewhat alarmed from the ground.

On his feet, Billy felt the blood drain from his head, tears stinging anew. But he looked down without hesitation. “Setting up camp is stupid,” he said. “I’m going.”

“You’ve got a broken leg,” Michael protested.

Billy nodded curtly. “Aye,” he said, taking an ungainly step. He almost faltered, wobbling, and he had to bite back a cry but he kept going. On the next step, he stumbled, using a tree to prop himself up, and nearly crashing to the ground anyway.

“Hey,” Michael said again, protesting more vehemently now as he got to his feet, favoring one leg slightly as he reached out to steady Billy. “Now who’s being stupid?”

Billy lifted his chin defiantly. “If you’re as determined to save my life as you seem to be, then you’re going to have to come along, too,” he said. “Because I’m leaving.”

Michael met his gaze, mouth closed. He understood, of course. It didn’t take a tactical genius to sort through Billy’s psychological ploy. The thing was, though, they both knew it would work.

Resigned, Michael sighed, maneuvering himself into position and slipping Billy’s arm around his shoulders. But when he looked at Billy, there was something different in his eyes, something softer, more welcoming. As if they’d finally reached their first understanding since Billy joined the team.

Still, Michael pursed his lips. “Just so you know,” he said. “Having me carry you out of here isn’t a very good rescue.”

Billy had to laugh. “Probably not,” he agreed as they started along, slow and limping. “But sitting there and watching you die isn’t much better.”

To that, Michael had no disagreement as they marched along, bedraggled and determined.

-o-

Determined though they both were, their injuries were forces to be reckoned with. Billy’s renewed grit allowed him to hobble along, but the pain was wearing on him and the fever was still burning noticeably in his forehead. He refused to mention it, but things were a bit gauzy in his vision, the lights haloing with a slight air of fantasy, even as the pain eroded his fledgling sense of self control.

He kept walking despite this, though he honestly didn’t know how much longer he could keep up.

And yet, there was no choice. If he went down, Michael would go down with him. Although they had started the trek with Michael bearing Billy’s weight, the shift throughout was palpable as Michael leaned further into Billy with every passing pace. After a long hour, it was no longer clear who was holding up who, just that they were both pressed against each other in a desperate attempt to keep going.

Because being noble and getting Michael out sounded well and good, but Billy had a broken leg and a fever and—

His mind cleared when, next to him, Michael stumbled, his footing slipping. Billy struggled to compensate, bearing weight on his bad leg but somehow keeping them upright. Blinking rapidly, he tried to keep himself alert, glancing over at Michael.

His team leader was looking worse – and markedly so. In the last hour, his head had started drooping, eyelids heavy and face flushed with fever. His hair was drenched with sweat now, and Billy felt it through his shirt where they were propping each other upright.

It would be easier to give it up. Easier to hope that Casey and Carson would find them. Easier.

Billy had made a career out of easier.

And that hadn’t turned out so spectacular.

Swallowing, he fought the darkness in his vision and cleared his throat. “So,” he said, trying to sound as conversational as possible. “You said you saw my file.”

Head bobbing, Michael seemed to rouse a little. “There wasn’t much there.”

“Aye,” Billy agreed. “I imagine the British government wasn’t too generous with the details.”

“You must have pissed them off pretty bad,” Michael said, words starting to slur together.

Billy prodded him with his shoulder, dragging them both forward another step. “I seem to have a special talent for that,” he said.

Michael made a small sound of agreement, but no words seemed forthcoming.

Worry continued to ferment in Billy’s stomach, but he refused to acknowledge it. Instead, he persisted, moving them forward, channeling the pain from his leg into his fight to keep moving. “Is that why you’ve proceeded with the hazing as it were?” Billy pressed. “Hoping maybe that I’d go to the director and request a reassignment?”

Michael snorted, eyes blinking lazily. “I was the one who begged the director to take you on,” he said. “He wanted to reject your application.”

Billy stopped short, looking at Michael in earnest. The older operative could only barely lift his head for a tilted look, but still their eyes met. “You asked for me?” he asked, trying to make sense of the words.

He had never asked, of course, but he’d assumed. His plea deal from MI6 had given him few options, and one of the last favors he had there had managed to send his file along with a curious letter of recommendation. Billy had known it must have been a hard sell, filled with nuance and promises and many things unsaid, but he’d imagined it as being from one director to another. Higgins knew more of the story than anyone else at the CIA, and Billy had been nothing but kind and effusive to the man for what he’d assumed had been a second chance.

He reckoned none of that changed his gratitude toward the man, although he’d long suspected that the favor had not been to Billy and more to MI6 to help clean up Billy’s mess. After all, putting Billy on trial and sentencing him to life in prison would be a rather unfortunate stain for Queen and Country. A tidy back deal to the CIA could be mutually beneficial. The MI6 got to clean its hands of the mess while the CIA gained a trained operative at the lowest pay level imaginable, on such a short leash that one wrong move would literally have him hanging.

But Michael had been the one to ask for him. Michael had been the one to read his file and take him on. It had been Michael’s idea.

Michael blinked, but his eyes were lucid. “Our last member retired. Higgins gave me three files. I think he threw yours in there so I’d think I’d have a choice, when really he wanted to plant someone else in the ODS. So I took you.”

Something in Billy’s chest ached but that made sense. “You chose the devil you knew,” he said. “Or least avoided the one that you couldn’t control. At least the line trust is owned makes a lot more sense now.”

Michael’s face scrunched up, and he shook his head. “We can break any mole,” he said. “But you were different. I knew that from the beginning.”

“If by different you mean desperate, then we are in agreement,” Billy joked feebly, eyes going down as he tried to move them forward again.

But Michael shook his head, not moving. “There’s a fine line between being a traitor and a hero. An even finer one between hope and desperation,” he said. “I thought I could train you.”

Billy frowned.

Michael smiled, leaning heavily still against Billy. “And today I think it finally paid off,” he said.

Billy was about to ask why, about to ask for more, but then Michael’s eyes rolled up in his head and his legs went out before he slid limply to the ground.

-o-

This time, Billy managed to control their descent, catching Michael as he went down, cradling him awkwardly as his own legs bent, dropping them both roughly to the ground. The impact sent a spike of pain through his body, but the repeated agony was losing its pointedness. Billy wasn’t sure that was a good sign, but at this point he’d take what he could get.

On the ground with Michael sprawled half on top of him, staying conscious was certainly better than nothing. He’d have to fight for anything else he got, because it was fairly clear to Billy that luck was not on his side.

The urge to rail against the injustices done against him was strong, but with Michael, Billy knew he didn’t have the time.

Taking a deep breath, Billy lifted Michael a little, trying to extricate himself from the mess of limbs. He wanted to be careful for Michael’s sake – because the older operative was clearly in no position to help himself anymore – but also for his own. Still, as he backed up, his broken leg bounced across the ground, and when he was finally clear, it took all of his strength to lay Michael down gently before squeezing his eyes shut in pain.

He wasn’t sure how long he stayed like that, eyes clenched and fingers fisting in the brush, but when he opened his eyes, everything looked a bit gray. Night was rapidly approaching, though Billy found that he couldn’t quite remember how long they’d actually been moving anymore. Time was blurring together. His stomach was unsettled, his head achy, and every movement felt just slightly off, like a movie where the sound didn’t match the picture.

But he was awake, if not entirely alert. And that made him better off than Michael.

Grimly, he looked over at his team leader, moving guardedly to better assess him. One look told him enough. Michael’s face was red and drenched, mouth open as he breathed with desperate inhalations. His chest sounded a little wheezy, which indicated that the venom was taking effect.

It took some effort to steady himself, but when Billy pressed his fingers to Michael’s pulse point, he could feel the frenetic beat, lilting slightly off kilter every now and then. It was too fast, too light, too irregular. His blood pressure was probably dangerously low already.

The skin was hot, and while Billy had known already that Michael was feverish, it was still a sobering realization to know just how bad it was. Because Michael was burning up. It was nothing short of a miracle that he’d managed to walk along for as long as he had.

Not a miracle, Billy thought, eyes lingering on Michael’s unconscious features. Pure grit, more likely. Michael was the type who defied the odds by force of will alone. Billy hadn’t realized how much he’d come to count on that during his few short months at the Agency.

It had saved Billy’s life, no doubt. It had given him a job.

And now there was nothing left by which Michael could save himself.

Breathing tightly, Billy looked down toward Michael’s leg. The area was grossly swollen now, the bandage almost pinching off circulation from the over-inflated leg. Making a face, he loosened the bandage, letting it fall away. The bite marks were stretched and blackened, deeply set in the puffy, distended skin.

Billy only had rudimentary medical knowledge and basic first aid training, but he knew this was bad. More than that, however, he knew there was nothing he could do. There was just one cure for a poisonous snake: antivenin.

Which Billy didn’t have.

Billy didn’t have a lot of things he needed in life. He didn’t have a country; he didn’t have a real home; he didn’t have much by the way of family. He didn’t have a career he wanted, any social life to speak of, or even a friend to turn to in his time of undeniable need. He had to get used to most of those inadequacies, and he thought maybe some of it could change – maybe he could clear his name in London, maybe he could explain enough to his family, maybe he could find new friends…

Time would tell with that. Time Billy presumably had because Michael hadn’t left him to die when he could have.

But Billy didn’t have time to wait on the antivenin. Rather, Michael didn’t have time.

Glancing at his watch, Billy checked the time. They were well past their checkpoint, which was the good news, he reckoned. Casey and Carson were no slouches when it came to fieldwork; they’d know something was amiss.

This far out, they had no phone coverage, but knowing Michael’s inalienable sense of direction, Billy had to think they were still on course, which meant that if Carson and Casey made a straight search, they’d be sure to stumble across them.

Rescue would come.

Billy’s eyes flitted back to Michael.

He just didn’t know if it would come soon enough.

Because Michael was insensate, fever burning through him and leg swelling. If he didn’t get antivenin soon, it might be too late.

Billy tried not to think that it might be too late already.

But the fact was, Billy didn’t know. Billy didn’t know a lot of things in life, though he often blustered his way through anyway. Spywork, he’d found, was as much about believing in his own lies as it was anything else. If he didn’t slow down to second guess himself, he found that few other people had time to second guess him either.

That had usually worked.

Except for when it didn’t and he ended up on charges and deported. Or with a broken leg and a stricken team leader.

This was his fault.

He swallowed, willing himself to keep his emotions in check. This was his fault.

But this time, he couldn’t run. He wouldn’t. Not just because of his broken leg, but because he owed it to Michael.

Because it was the right thing to do.

Collecting himself, Billy sat back, taking a few shaky breaths as he tried to settle himself into a comfortable position, eyes trained on Michael.

“I think I’ll take your advice now and make camp,” he said into the jungle. “I still don’t prefer it as a plan, but I reckon it’s the best we have for now. But Casey and Carson ought to be here soon, and then we’ll get out.”

Billy said it with as much inflection as he could muster. And he was a good sell, he knew. People wanted to believe him when he put his best face forward.

Billy just hoped for once that he didn’t turn out to be a liar for once.

-o-

It didn’t take long for Billy to remember why he liked to run. Running wasn’t necessarily easier, but it was something. Billy could handle whatever came, as long as he was running to face it. He found that minimized the impact. After all, if he didn’t like where he ended up, he could pick up and run again.

Sitting still, however; letting the consequences play out – that was torture. It was slow and deliberate, every slow and painful moment uncomfortably filled with regrets and worst case scenarios. Billy didn’t like thinking about what he’d done wrong; he liked thinking about how badly things could still turn out even less.

So sitting there in the jungle with a broken leg, watching Michael fight against the venom that ravaged his body as the dusk descended, Billy wanted to run. He wanted to run so far and so fast that he couldn’t even think about this mission or how it’d all gone to hell. He didn’t want to think about his own stupid mistakes or Michael’s incorrigible sense of parity.

Billy just didn’t want to. It took more control than he thought he had to sit there, fighting his instincts, to stay. If he was running, then he didn’t have to admit he’d been kicked out. If he was running, he didn’t have to acknowledge what he’d lost. If he was running…

Not this time, damn it. Not after Michael nearly died for him.

Not this time.

The resolve was all he had, worn and weathered, beat down by the pain and exhaustion. But he’d hold it, still.

There wasn’t much to do to pass the time. He organized their sparse supplies, keeping things consolidated so when Casey and Carson arrived, they could make a hasty exit.

Together.

He glanced toward Michael, remembering how he had insisted on nothing less when it had been Billy laid out on the fauna. Billy had just had a broken leg, Michael….

Was bad and getting worse. After checking and rechecking the supplies, he found himself keeping a reluctant vigil, trying to decide if Michael’s leg was still swelling and if his fever was climbing. The bite marks were clearly blackened in the reddened skin, and Billy helplessly noted a rash forming along Michael’s arms and up his neck. The fever left the team leader listless, and Billy felt useless.

Probably because he was useless. Sitting there with his broken leg, he was entirely useless. To think Michael had actually wanted him.

Sighing, Billy scrounged through their pack again, finding a fresh bottle of water. Another quick search turned up a bandana. Casey and Carson would be on their way by now, so using the water wouldn’t be wasteful. Besides, if they weren’t already coming, they would arrive too late and the water would be a touch superfluous.

Pouring some carefully, Billy dampened the cloth. It was only lukewarm at best, but with the humid climate, Billy had to think it was better than nothing. Scooting closer, he contained a grimace, reaching out awkwardly to wipe the cloth over Michael’s brow.

Michael jolted a little at the touch, his head turning toward Billy as he clumsily trailed the cloth down each cheek. By the time he folded it on top of Michael’s brow, the older man was looking at him.

Billy tried to smile. “Hello, there.”

It sounded stupid to say, his voice too friendly, his words too upbeat.

Michael frowned, clearly a bit confused. “You’re here.”

Billy chuckled, trying desperately to hide how terrified he was. “How far did you think I’d get on a broken leg?”

“I thought you’d try, at least,” Michael murmured, his words trailing off as his face distorted in pain. He arched a little, gritting his teeth together in obvious discomfort.

Billy reached out, hand lingering. “Careful, careful,” he coaxed, not sure what to do with his hand. He settled it on the ground, leaning closer. “It’s best if you stay calm.”

Michael laughed, short and gruff, his eyes opening to slits as he eyed Billy with something akin to bemusement. “Optimism?” he croaked. “From you?”

He’d never thought of it like that. But he hadn’t thought much of it at all. When he’d started at MI6, he’d been eager and green. He’d believed in causes; he’d believed in himself. He’d believed.

But that had come crashing down, and Billy had been forced to leave that inerrant belief along with everything else. He hadn’t thought much about how it had changed him, but here he was, a thoroughly changed man. And not for the better.

Billy was a liar, though. He could deceive; he could charm. He just had to put his mind to it.

So his mouth opened into a coy grin. “Sort of hard to be optimistic when the three men charged with your well being choose to torment you on a routine basis,” he said, giving an easy shrug.

“It’s all in love,” Michael said, settling back, his body easing a little.

Billy raised his eyebrows in genuine surprise. “I think we’ve got a different definition of love, mate.”

Michael shrugged one shoulder. “Okay, it’s all in the hope of mutually beneficial working relationship,” he said. “We’re a tight knit group, most of the time. It takes us a while to warm up.”

Billy laughed again. “I’d reckon that’s an understatement,” he said.

“Oh, like you’ve given us much to work with,” Michael shot back, eyes opening further and fixing on Billy.

Billy’s humor faded slightly, and his shoulders slouched. “Fair enough,” he said. “But I’m still here.”

Watching him, Michael nodded slowly. “You are,” he agreed, words still strained, breathing wheezing slightly with each inhalation.

The silence stretched between them, and Billy wasn’t sure what to say. He wasn’t sure what was expected of him. This role of protector, of being part of a team again, of having someone depend on him – it was still new, foreign. He was starting to wonder if it wasn’t a question of whether or not he trusted Michael, but if he trusted himself.

There wasn’t time for such personal misgivings, though. Not here, not now. Not with Casey and Carson still far out, not with Billy’s broken leg, not with Michael succumbing to a snakebite.

Michael was succumbing, too; there was no arguing that. Awake though he was, Michael looked ghastly, soaked through and spent. He was lucid, but only after a period of profound unconsciousness. Even with that, he looked ready to fall back asleep, the tremors shaking him becoming more pronounced as he tried to visibly hold them in check.

For Billy’s sake, no doubt.

Drawing a deep breath, Billy inched forward, unscrewing the lid to the water and holding it out. “You should drink.”

Even dazed with fever, Michael gave him a quizzical, discerning look.

Billy rolled his eyes. “I thought it was my job to be the distrusting outsider.”

“No,” Michael said. “You’re the stuck up pretty boy who thinks it’s still all about him.”

The candor made Billy flinch. He smiled weakly. “If the shoe fits, I suppose.”

Michael grunted. “Lots of shoes could fit,” he said.

“Oh?” Billy asked. “Then by all means, I’m open to suggestions.”

Michael shifted, wincing a little as he swallowed with effort and shook his head. “What about the charmer?” he said. “You’ve got the looks. Heck, if you tried smiling a little more often, everyone in the Agency would love you.”

Billy gave him a funny look. “You overestimate my wiles.”

“Hardly,” Michael said. “One look at your file, and I hired you, all advice to the contrary.”

Billy’s breath caught in his chest. He forced it back and held Michael’s gaze, lifting the bottle again. “If that’s the case, then you have no choice but to drink,” he said.

Michael’s eyes narrowed.

Billy shrugged disarmingly, flashing the hint of a smile. “You already risked your life for me,” he said. “What’s one drink?”

Reluctant, Michael lifted his hand. It was shaking, and he almost dropped the bottle. Billy steadied his hand, helping as they lifted the bottle together for him to take a slow, tremulous drink.

When Michael was done, water had spilled down his chin and he looked more exhausted than before. He took a moment, eyes up at the sky while he breathed, unsteady, uneven breaths. Billy purposefully recapped the bottle, twisting it closed and trying not to watch Michael.

After a long moment, Michael’s breathing began to ease. “You should leave,” he said, voice quiet.

Billy looked up, and found Michael looking at him.

Michael blinked, eyes clouded even as he nodded. “You should run,” he repeated, words starting to slur together again.

Billy’s heart skipped a bit, his stomach churning. “I’m not going anywhere,” he promised, even as Michael’s eyes drifted closed and his mouth parted in a deep sleep. The words hurt, but they mattered, more than ever before. “I’m not going.”

-o-

Saying it was one thing; actually staying was another.

True, Billy didn’t actually have a lot of choices, given his predicament. But sitting there idly while Michael drifted in and out of consciousness was tedious and terrifying in equal turns.

It was the right thing to do, though, and that mattered. Even if it didn’t, Billy had few other palatable options.

Just sit and wait.

Sit and hope.

Hope was a tenuous thing, and Billy had spent so long avoiding it that now that it was the only thing he had left, it left him unsettled and nervous. He sat, propped against a tree, legs stretched out next to Michael, who was sprawled on the jungle floor. Their supplies were within arm’s reach, still packed but organized, and he found himself increasingly on edge.

That could be the fever, he reckoned, and he could still feel it burning in his cheeks and throbbing in his ears. The pain in his leg had subsided with the stillness, but the reprieve from physical agony only made the emotional toll more acute with each passing second.

And the seconds did pass. Slowly, torturously. The second hand on his watch ticked by but no time seemed to pass. The night was almost upon them now, and they were running out of time. Billy listened for sounds of approaching footsteps, but there were only insects buzzing and birds chirping.

No rescue.

Nothing.

Billy worked his jaw, refusing to look at his watch again. Casey and Carson would come; if not for Billy, then for Michael.

They would come soon.

His eyes moved to Michael, who hadn’t roused again. Though his eyes were closed, it was clear that his sleep was far from restful. He twitched, head jerking and eyes moving beneath the flushed lids, and he muttered from time to time, almost whimpering as the fever continued to rise.

Billy had stopped checking the fever; he’d stopped checking the leg and rash, too. His continual prodding only confirmed what he already knew. With no means to correct the problem, the weighty knowledge just made him sick.

Still, he did what he could. He kept the compress on Michael’s head as cool as possible, soaking it with fresh water when the fever sapped it. His consistency was numbing, but it was the only thing that kept him grounded.

Watch the jungle; check the supplies; tend to Michael.

But this time, when he leaned over to refold the compress, the small movement seemed to rouse Michael. His eyes fluttered, but instead of drifting back off into sleep, this time they opened, staring blankly out into the foliage for a long moment.

Billy grinned. “And sleeping beauty awakes!” he crooned, trying to be jovial. If it was too much, he hoped Michael’s good sense would be blunted by the venom. “That’s a positive thing, because I was getting close to attempting a kiss to wake you, which may have been rather awkward.”

Michael’s brow furrowed and he blinked, his eyes slowly focusing as his head rolled slightly to look at Billy.

“Plus, I’d hate to think of what your wife would do to me,” Billy joked. “For all the trouble you lads have put me through, I imagine her punishment would be far worse.”

Michael watched him for another moment more, face twisting with a frown. Then he shook his head. “Fay says I care about the team more than her,” he said, words rushed and slurred. “Problem is, I think she’s right.”

Billy’s chest twinged, and he shifted awkwardly. In his time with the ODS, he had endured many things, but personal chitchat had never been among them. “Yes, well,” he said. “The perils of being an active spy, I suppose.”

Michael shook his head, eyes starting to roam a bit. “She doesn’t understand,” he said, muttering the words a bit. His breathing hitched, his body arching a little, as if to breathe more deeply. “’S not really more,” he continued, eyes flitting between the branches in the canopy above them. “’S family. Can’t marry someone without total commitment; can’t go into the field without it either.”

Billy pressed his lips together, struggling for something to say.

Michael shook his head, rolling his eyes back to Billy but this time, they never quite focused. “Told Carson and Casey, too. We’re a team. All in. That’s how we all come back alive. All in.”

Guilt rising, Billy looked down. “Aye, let’s hope it works out that way this time, too.”

Michael took a ragged breath, flailing his arms a little.

Surprised, Billy looked up, half horrified to find the older operative trying to sit up. “Mate, I don’t think—“

Michael shook his head again, more adamant, fighting against Billy with a surprising if uncoordinated strength. “Doesn’t always make sense, but none of us do,” he said, words coming fast now even as he pushed against Billy’s grip. “Carson’d be a drunk; Casey’d be a mass murderer; and I’d be locked up in a closet waiting for the men in white coats.”

It was hard to hold Michael in place without causing him more harm; harder still as Michael’s thrashing limbs threatened to jar Billy’s still very broken leg. “Yes, well, insanity and sanity is a fine line in spy work,” he agreed. “But really, you need to be still.

Michael bucked, straining in earnest now. “Billy’s no different. They say he’s a traitor, but that just makes him a man with something to prove. We all have something to prove,” he said, flailing again. “We can prove it together.”

Billy blinked, and then he realized. Michael was conscious, but not really. Whether the venom had hallucinogenic effects or the fever was just too high, Michael was delirious, seeing things that weren’t there. He didn’t know who Billy was anymore.

Rather, he knew exactly who Billy was, but he just didn’t know he was exposing his secrets to him. That the ODS was difficult, hard to like, and impossible – but they were family. Their own messed-up, dysfunctional, ever codependent family. No one else would take them, but that didn’t matter because they had each other.

Michael and Casey and Carson.

And Billy.

It was a hard thing to understand; harder still to accept. If Billy didn’t belong here, then maybe he didn’t belong anywhere.

Michael thrashed again, face pinching in discomfort as his eyes welled up and he moaned. “He just needs time,” he said. “We all need time.”

The words drifted off into a whimper, and Billy did his best to hang on while the worst of Michael’s delusion passed before he started to sink back limply to the ground. Billy did his best to control the descent, ignoring his leg as he settled Michael back on the ground.

Eyelids fluttering, Michael’s head still tossed. “We can make him better,” he mumbled, eyes drifting closed. “We can all be better.”

Billy still held on, hands on Michael’s arms as the older man drifted back into unconsciousness. He held on until the tremors eased, until Michael lapsed back into an uneasy sleep.

We can make him better. We can all be better.

Letting go, Billy sat close and struggled to believe.

-o-

It was too much.

Billy’s leg had become a veritable black hole, sucking all of his energy, all of his focus, everything. His own fever dogged him, and he found his vision greying out more often as he endeavored to stay awake as the night fell.

And that wasn’t even the worst of it.

Sitting there, watching Michael slowly slip away—

Billy had thought he understood. He had thought he’d pegged the ODS as a group of heartless, paranoid bastards, but they were all as scared as he was. But where he ran, they stayed, and they were the better men for it.

Yet, Michael was dying.

That was the thing, too. Billy didn’t hardly think it, but it was true. With the fever and the delusions, the swollen leg and the rash: Michael was dying. His breathing was strained and desperate, heart beating so frantically that Billy could see Michael’s pulse straining against the skin of his throat.

Billy breathed in and bit down hard, feeling the tears burning at the back of his eyes. It was stupid to cry – childish and unprofessional – but he had nothing else.

He had nothing.

Pathetically, he sniffled, shaking his head. His eyes lingered downward, looking at his hands. “I reckon it’s not a surprise to you that you’re right,” he said through his constricted throat. “This is all a part I play, and it’s not even one I like.”

His voice sounded funny, the words almost foreign as they lilted among the natural cacophony around them.

The tension hummed through him, and he forced a bitter smile. “It’s easier to hate all of you than it is to admit how much I hate myself,” he said, giving a small, one-shouldered shrug. “Because you’re wrong, too. I’m not the man you think I am. I would have left you to die more than once today. I think I only stayed out of guilt.”

“Then why are you still here?”

Michael’s voice startled him, and Billy looked up, eyes wide. Michael was still stretched out on the ground, face red and hair soaked, but his eyes were lucid and focused, even if fever-bright, as they looked at Billy knowingly.

Because Michael probably already knew. Even when Billy wasn’t sure, Michael knew.

Billy managed a laugh, though it was a short, choked sound. “If you haven’t noticed, I’ve got no other place to go,” he said, and he wasn’t sure if he was talking about on this mission or on his career at the CIA. Or if it was just everything.

Michael took a breath, his trembling starting up again. “Well,” he said, teeth starting to chatter as his tremors increased. “We want you here.”

Billy scoffed despite himself. “You all have a funny way of showing it,” he said. “Though I reckon, you’re right. Or you’d have left me by now. Casey and Carson, though—“

“Feel the same,” Michael interjected, forcing a swallow. He convulsed, blinking rapidly. “You just have to – to give them – time.”

“Trust can be earned, then, aye?” Billy asked. “You are a lying bastard.”

Michael laughed, breathless. “Just trying to – to make you – feel at home.”

Billy chortled, the sound wrenching in his gut as he watched Michael struggle. The lines on his face were noticeable, indicative of the growing pain and the mounting struggle. There was nothing Billy could do though; while the pain ravaged Michael’s body, Billy could only sit and watch and offer meager platitudes.

So he’d offer the best damn platitudes he could muster.

Leaning forward, he reached down, squeezing Michael’s arm. Such closeness, such proximity, such affection was foreign and strange, but it was right. He looked steadily in Michael’s eyes and made sure the other man was listening. “I don’t deserve it, you know,” he said, as honest and earnest as he had ever been. “I don’t deserve a place on this team – or any team. The things I’ve done…”

He trailed off, unable to continue. The weight of it all, the prescience of his past – it was more than he knew how to handle. That was why he kept running. That was why sitting here was so very, very hard.

Still, he forced it back. “I’ve been a selfish bastard. You should have left me back there, and not just because I would have left you. But because I’m a mess and always have been. You know that, I think, so I don’t know why you just didn’t go.”

Michael’s body was taut as the pain wracked him. His breathing was short and strained, gasping, heaving breaths escaping through parted, chafed lips. “Because we’ve all be there – Casey, Carson – me,” he said with stunted effort. “We’ve learned – to deal with it – in our own ways. I thought—“ He broke off, squeezing his eyes shut as he spasmed, almost coughing as he opened his eyes again. “I thought if you could learn that, you might – you might be – the best thing – that ever happened to this team.”

In all the lies and deception and trickery, the barest truth was the hardest thing to hear. Not because it was demeaning and insulting, but because it made him realize how wrong he’d been. How he’d seen torture when really it’d been a chance to prove himself. He’d seen obstacles when it’d been an opportunity. He’d been so scared that he’d thought the hand reaching out to save him was pushing him down.

He’d been wrong.

He should be getting used to that by now, but the consequences never got easier. Decommissioned and deported. Now here he was, watching someone die on his behalf.

And what could he say? What could he do? What was left?

Just platitudes and failed opportunities and regrets.

Billy took a ragged breath, feeling himself waver. “I doubt that, mate,” he said, fingers still wrapped around Michael’s arm.

Michael heaved for air, his entire body contorting with the effort. His eyes danced upward, darting aimlessly as he writhed. Still, he shook his head. “Doubt that,” he replied between gasping breaths, clearly expending the last of his depleted energy reserves.

Billy was going to protest; he was going to joke; he was going to do something.

But it was too late.

Michael convulsed again before his body fell back, his eyes rolling up as he went limp and lifeless on the ground.

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: November 12th, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC)
Just wonderful all around!

Fave parts? EVERYTHING!

I tried choosing and LJ choked and I couldn't pare down. That's how STELLAR this chapter was. So much emotion, heart wrenching decisions, heroism. Just too lovely!!!

I LOVED every moment, every exchange. Michael is just so...heroic...no better word fits how he acts throughout this and towards Billy.

Heavenly!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 2nd, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Just wonderful all around!
billy thinks

Aww, well I'm just glad it kept your attention throughout! Thank you :)

(And I hope you're doing well! I know how busy you've been -- I've missed you!)

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