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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: Lost and Found (2/4)

December 10th, 2012 (07:15 am)
indifferent

feeling: indifferent

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE
PART FOUR



PART TWO

Time passes faster with Billy awake. Sometimes, when Rick fixates on a point on the ceiling, he can almost forget where they are, almost forget just how bad things are. If he doesn’t look, he can’t see Billy’s broken and bloodied body and simply listen to the sound of his voice as he regales Rick with stories from his colorful career.

“Needless to say,” Billy continues, “Higgins was not overly thrilled with the outcome.”

Rick laughs. “What did he do?”

“What could he do?” Billy asks rhetorically. “He gave me a commendation and vowed never to send me to the Czech Republic again.”

Amused, Rick shakes his head. “I can’t believe that.”

“What?” Billy asks, his voice tinged with jesting hurt. “You doubt me?”

“You’re the one who told me that you say a lot of things you don’t mean,” Rick says, and he looks at Billy again. The older operative is still slumped against the wall, taking breaths with effort even as he manages a grin. The blood doesn’t look worse, but the bruises are darkening, cuts turning inflamed around the edges. The levity falters and Rick swallows, working to keep his smile in place. “So I’ve taken to doubting everything you say.”

“Ah, well,” Billy says as nonchalantly as he can. “When we get back, you’ll just have to look it up. It’s all there in the CIA records.”

“Which are probably classified,” Rick points out.

Billy’s grin widens. “And that is truly convenient.”

Rick rolls his eyes, sighing as he looks back at the ceiling. There is a stretch of silence and he shakes his head. He’s thinking of something to say, some way he can pull his weight. The conversation has been good – it’s keeping him grounded – and he’s only too aware of the effort Billy is expending to keep it up for him.

And yet, it’s still a comfort. More, Rick needs it. Rick really, really needs it, and he doesn’t know how to return the favor.

He looks at Billy again and this time the Scot’s eyes are closed. His chest is heaving a bit now and while he’s clearly conscious, Rick sees the pain Billy is trying to hide for him. Billy is drained and for all Billy’s given to Rick, he can’t find anything to give back.

As he’s thinking of something, he barely has time to react to the sound of footsteps outside.

Instinctively, he straightens, glancing at Billy, who is attempting to do the same. Rick is on his feet by the time the door opens and Billy is sitting up on his own, away from the wall.

The guard isn’t one Rick recognizes, but his plain attire and heavy weaponry is the same as the rest. One of the interrogators follows a step behind him, his eyes narrowed in curiosity. His eyes pass over Rick with seeming disinterest before settling on Billy.

He says something in an African dialect and nods in Billy’s direction. Rick doesn’t need to be a linguist to make out what’s being said.

Shaking his head, Rick takes a step forward. Part of it is instinct, part of it is bravado. Some of it may be stupidity. “No,” he says, voice tinged with panic. “He’s had enough.”

At that, the interrogator smirks and nods his head again. The guard steps forward and Rick moves to intercept him. The backlash is instantaneous – so fast, Rick doesn’t see the punch that levels him.

“That’s enough, that’s enough,” he hears Billy saying over the ringing in his ears. The world is still dark but he can hear the scuffling of feet. “I’ll go with you,” Billy continues.

There’s more scuffling and Rick blinks rapidly, trying to regain his sense. By the time his vision has returned, he looks up in time to see the guard manhandling Billy out the door. The Scottish operative is walking, even as he’s being jerked roughly by the arm when he disappears into the hallway.

The protests rise in Rick’s throat, but the interrogator just smirks again and heads out before Rick even has a chance to speak.

When the door shuts and Billy’s gone, Rick lays his head back on the hard cement and closes his eyes. It doesn’t make sense. Why aren’t they working him over, too? What’s with the delay? What does Billy have that they think they can’t get from Rick? Rick doesn’t want to be tortured, but he doesn’t want to be stuck idle in a cell while Billy suffers.

Still, it is what it is. There are no rules to torture. Rick can’t make it fit into simple and defined boxes. Like Billy said, most of the battle is psychological. For the one receiving the blows and the one who has to watch it.

Rick takes a few deep breaths and reminds himself that he can do this. He has to do this. For Billy.

He opens his eyes wearily. For Billy.

-o-

Billy is thrust into a chair and strapped down. While his mind is still reeling from the sudden shifts in his equilibrium, he manages a smile up in the direction of his interrogator.

He is watching Billy, but there is bemusement in his eyes now. There are two guards by the door and Billy can’t see well enough to know if they are the same or different. It doesn’t matter, he supposes, but Billy’s keen on such details, especially when they distract him from the inevitability of what’s to follow.
Because Billy will smile. He’ll joke and he’ll annoy but that doesn’t mean he is indifferent to what’s coming. No, it rather scares him. He doesn’t relish pain. He doesn’t like feeling his skin crawl and trying to keep the screams buried so deep within him that he almost gags.

He doesn’t want to endure it. And for love of country, it’s possible he wouldn’t. But it’s not just a country. It’s not just a mission. It’s the people who will be sacrificed if he gives in.

Rick’s too young. Rick has too much left, in the Agency and outside of it.

He holds that thought close as he tilts his head and says, “Fancy meeting you here.”

The man seems to smirk. He’s still at a distance and seems to be contemplating his options.

Which include a variety of blades and other more creative implements. Billy sees them for the first time laid out on the table in front of him, ranging from surgical scalpels to a bottle of bleach.

“Oh,” he comments wryly. “You brought toys this time. I do hope you intend to share?”

The man steps forward, eyeing the table with a certain longing. He picks up a pair of pliers.

“Some electrical work to do?” Billy guesses. “Your lighting in here does leave something to be desired.”

The man huffs a small laugh and moves toward Billy’s hand.

It takes all Billy has not to stiffen. Instead he keeps prattling. “Though I think a few simple fixtures might do the trick.”

The man picks up his fingers and Billy can’t pull away as his pointer finger is extended.

“Something in brushed nickel perhaps? A rustic look?”

The pliers are set and pressed.

“Or are you more of a stainless steel bloke?”

The yank is not unexpected, but it hurts all the same. The agony swells in his hand as blood wells in the spot where his fingernail used to be, throbbing up his arm and throughout his entire body.

Billy eats a scream but can’t stop himself from flinching, tears stinging at his eyes. “Okay, so clearly we can establish that interior decorating is not my profession,” he says, panting heavily. “Care to hazard a guess as to what is?”

The man walks behind Billy, moving to his other hand.

“I reckon you are a good guesser,” Billy says. “You have a knack for creativity with tools, at any rate.”

His other pointer finger is lifted and the pliers are applied. This time Billy doesn’t have time to continue when his other fingernail is torn clean off.

This time Billy holds back his cry with a laugh, breathless and desperate. It takes him a moment to get his bearings, but he doesn’t let his banter stop. “And I can also tell you I’m not in the hospitality business, but your idea of a manicure leaves something to be desired,” he says, striving for cockiness even as the pain threatens to blind him.

The piers are put down, exchanged for a nail.

Billy’s smile wavers but he doesn’t let it fall. “Moving on to carpentry, are we?” he asks, and he’s thinking of a witty follow up when the nail is poked into the fleshy area between his thumb and pointer finger. It makes him gasp, his throat seizing for a moment. “Might I suggest working on your craftsmanship a bit? Clean through on the first thrust is impressive, but I question the overall placement.”

The nail is pulled out – slowly – and Billy can feel the skin and muscle stretch and throb as blood rushes the site and pours out.

Billy doesn’t let himself watch, looks the man square in the face even as the nail moves further up his hand and the man picks up a hammer. “If you’re looking to hang me on the wall, nothing in the hand will ever support the weight,” Billy advises, body tense already.

The hammer moves and Billy hears the metal on metal before it’s driven through his flesh.

This time, he has to grit his teeth – hard. He tastes blood in his mouth from his tongue, which has been caught in the crossfire.

The tears run, just for a moment, streaking hot and heavy down his face even as he sniffles and gasps and shakes his head. “Higher still,” he says, pushing the words out with every ounce of willpower he has. “You have to make it count.”

The man’s face flickers, just for a moment.

Billy still sees it. Swallowing, he latches on. “Unless of course, your inability to thrive is why you’re stuck in the bowels doing dirty work,” he suggests.

The man walks behind him, moves to the other hand.

Billy doesn’t let up. “I mean, you can be honest with me,” he says. “We’re both in this situation because we’re the expendable pieces. The important people are the ones who never have to get their hands dirty.”

The nail drives in, hard and fast.

Billy muffles a cry. “I suppose now I’m speaking literally,” he muses, even as he has to spit the words. He cranes his head to look at the man and smiles. “Though I wonder, if this is what you expect from your guests, how much harsher will they treat you for your failure to succeed at such simple tasks? Or is this your punishment already?”

The man’s face turns hard, rage sparking in his eyes. He shakes his head. “You talk a lot,” he says.

Billy shrugs. There are still fresh tears on his face, but he doesn’t acknowledge them. “I’ve been told.”

“You say nothing of importance,” the man continues.

It’s not really easy to maintain the banter, but Billy’s skilled at deception. He has made a fine art out of convincing people of his own nonchalance, even when it takes a hell of a lot for him to cover what he’s really feeling and thinking. It’s his greatest weapon, he’s found. Play the ignorant imbecile and people tend to overlook what you’re really doing.

Sometimes it feels self deprecating. But then again, it works.

“Well, to be fair, you haven’t told me what you want to know?” Billy presses.

“You know what I want to know,” the man hisses.

Billy shakes his head innocently, though he suspects his doe eyed expression is less a facade than usual given his current state. “I’ve tried—”

“You’ve babbled!”

“Just trying to be sociable,” Billy says, trying not to sound as tired as he feels.

The man moves too quick for Billy to track. The bottle of bleach is in his hand and the corrosive liquid splashes over Billy’s hand, hitting the freshly damaged fingers and the cuts up and down his arm.

The pain is immediate and ferocious. Billy’s vision dims and his body tenses as he tries to jerk away on instinct. But there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do, and his body trembles in shock.

“Who are you?” the man demands, voice like venom now. “Who do you work for?”

And despite the pain, Billy has to smile. Because he’s the one being tortured but it’s his interrogator who is breaking.

Billy laughs, shaking his head through the agony. “So you do have questions,” he muses. “We’re finally getting somewhere.”

The bleach splashes again and Billy’s consciousness wavers even as he relishes this victory.

-o-

In the time he’s been alone, Rick’s managed to do a lot of thinking.

He thinks about what Michael and Casey are doing. He thinks about the planned extraction and when they would know for sure that something had gone wrong. He thinks about their contact and if he’s on a plane, safely headed toward the States. He calculates the probability of Higgins approving a more substantial rescue operation given the precarious political situation in the area.

It’s hard to say on that last one, though Rick likes to think that it’s still a fairly strong probability. And even if it’s not, Michael and Casey have proven themselves to be loyal until the end.

Of course, there’s no way to figure just how much Michael and Casey will have to overcome to get access to the base to pose any kind of rescue.

Or, if it is, Rick doesn’t want to figure it out because the reality is that it’s still a long shot.

The bottom line, getting out of here alive is a long shot.

Which is when Rick decides to stop thinking about that kind of thing. Instead he thinks about training at the Farm. He thinks about his first day on the job. He thinks about how much he hated his team, how lost he felt.

He tries to remember the first time he felt like he belonged here.

He’s not sure if it’s when they didn’t leave him in Russia. Or if it’s when they rescued Simms. Or all of it.

Rick is still contemplating those things when the door opens.

This time, he doesn’t bother getting to his feet--they haven’t been here a full day, but Rick’s still coming to recognize the routine. Even if Rick had enough courage to make a go at the guards for escape, Billy’s still in the crossfire, and that’s a risk Rick can’t take.

Instead, Rick watches. Watches the guard hauling Billy, the gun slung on his back. Accessible but not on the ready. Watches the guard still standing in the doorway, gun in the same position.

It’s something to consider, at least. Rick might have a chance to take them both out before they could get a shot off. Of course, there’d be no way of knowing what waited for him down the hall, but it is still something to consider.

Then again, Rick’s not sure what he can consider when Billy is dropped to the floor again, hitting like a sack of potatoes by Rick’s feet. Even if it’s only happened once, it seems like an all too familiar drill.

This time, however, Billy oofs, and Rick realizes that he’s still conscious. As much as he knows he shouldn’t, he averts his eyes from the guards and gets to his knees, focusing on Billy.

“You okay?” he asks, even as he knows it’s a stupid question.

Billy groans in response, trying to heft himself upward and mostly failing. He sprawls on his stomach a bit before he manages to roll on his side, head tilted up toward Rick.

He looks worse than before. New bruises on his face and his clothing in tatters. The wounds look raw, skin puckered and red up and down his arms. One of Billy’s hands grasps at the cement as he tries to hold himself a little upright, and Rick can see the new damage.

For a second, Rick’s stomach churns. It’s like a cliche, he thinks. A bad spy movie. This stuff doesn’t happen. This stuff can’t happen.

But it is. Rick blinks and wills himself to believe it even as every part of him wants to reject it.

And yet, Billy smiles. “Never better,” he says, and his teeth are red, fresh blood welling from a cut in his lip.

Rick stares. He’s not sure what to do. He’s not sure what to say. Thinking and plotting and planning doesn’t help him cope with the reality.

Billy just seems to chuckle, exhaling shakily as he flops over onto his back and stares at the ceiling. “It’s not so bad,” he says, a little dreamily, his voice strained.

At that, Rick laughs outright.

Billy rolls his head to look at him.

“You’re joking, right?” Rick asks.

Billy looks vaguely wounded. “Why would I joke about torture?”

That’s actually sort of a valid point, but Billy looks half dead that Rick just has to laugh again. He shakes his head, sitting back against the wall. “I don’t know,” he admits. He looks at the ceiling and shakes his head again. “I don’t know.”

-o-

It takes some work to get Billy into a comfortable position, but the Scottish operative seems to want to sit up. Rick can only think it hurts, given the state of his, well...everything. But that’s also the reason Rick can’t bring himself to disagree.

Outside, Rick still hears the occasionally scuffle of a guard, but there’s not much else beyond that. He’s already taken to relieving himself in the drain in the middle of the room, and his stomach is growling in earnest now, his throat tight with dry discomfort.

If Billy notices these things, he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he breathes carefully next to Rick and sometimes makes small talk.

“So what do they want?” Rick finally asks, when he can’t take it anymore.

“They’re still a little vague on the details,” Billy admits, and his voice still lilts the way it should, but the words are starting to slur ever so slightly. Hours have passed since Billy was dropped back off, and exhaustion is taking hold of both of them.

And it’s almost funny because sitting there, Rick is getting bored. His backside is numb at intervals and he’s so tired of staring at four cement walls that he doesn’t know what to do.

That’s basically it. He doesn’t know what to do.

The sudden intensity of his own helplessness hits him hard and he chokes on his breath for a moment. He shakes his head. “What are we going to do?”

Billy looks at him plainly.

Rick shrugs. “I mean, we’re locked in a cell. They’re torturing you and we still don’t know what they want. What are we going to do?” He sounds desperate, even to his own ears.

“They want the things we can’t give them,” Billy says.

Rick scoffs. “So that still doesn’t tell us what we should do.”

“Of course it does,” Billy says, and his voice is surprisingly strong. He pushes himself up slightly, leaned off the wall and turned toward Rick. His blue eyes are intent, and Rick can’t look away.

“It does?” Rick asks.

“It means we fight,” he says.

Rick feels his protests rise. “We’re locked in a cell, you’re—”

Billy shakes his head, adamant. “There are many ways to fight,” he says, almost insists. “Show them nothing of weakness or fear. Stay true.”

It sounds good – it does, it sounds right — but Rick doesn’t know what to think of that. Because he’s tired and he’s thirsty and he’s locked in a cell and Billy’s getting weaker and Rick doesn’t know what to do.

The frustration mounts in him, boiling through his helplessness. “But you’re the one they’re hurting,” he says.

“Aye, physically,” Billy agrees. “But don’t think this isn’t torture for you as well.”

But this isn’t the torture Rick expects. He has himself prepared for knives and pliers; helplessness and futility are hard pills to swallow. “What if I can’t?” he asks, because he’s scared of the answer.

Billy doesn’t hesitate. “You can.”

Rick’s almost afraid to ask. “How do you know?”

“Because I’ve looked inside you and seen it,” he says. “From the first day I met you, I knew it.”

“But they’ll kill you,” Rick says.

“And you’ll fight harder,” Billy contends. “You’ll fight harder because, ultimately, it’s all you have. They can take your identity, they can take your body, they can definitely take your life. Sometimes they even take your soul, but they can’t take your will unless you surrender it to them freely. It’s the one thing you can never lose. You have to leave it behind.”

It’s a speech that Billy seems to embody, he seems to be the words. When it’s done, his stare is still unyielding.

And Rick considers it. He tries to understand. He tries to know what it means to fight when he can’t even get a single punch off. He wonders why this isn’t the sort of thing he’s learned, why there was never any training for this. He wonders if it’ll even make a difference, if he dies here or lives.

But Billy’s eyes won’t leave him alone and the words are heavy in Rick’s empty stomach.

He feels like he’s losing everything: his self control, his sense of reality, his hope. But Billy’s words find a place inside of him and make sense, even when Rick thinks they shouldn’t.

And he wants to fight this. He wants to tell Billy he’s wrong, that they need something more. He wants to think there’s still something he can do, something he can change. He wants to plan their escape, think of ways to get word to Michael and Casey.

He wants more, but he’s not going to get it.

Sighing, Rick pulls himself together and finally nods. “Okay,” he says.

Billy nods back, smiling. When the moment passes, he seems to deflate, sinking back against the wall.

Rick scoots closer in concern. “You should probably rest,” he suggests, and he wants to touch Billy, to comfort him, but he doesn’t know how.

Billy nods wearily, his eyes already drifting closed. “Probably a prudent measure,” he agrees, then looks up at Rick. “For both of us.”

Rick nods. “Of course,” he says.

Billy looks at him a second longer, as if not sure if he believes Rick, but his body wins out and his head rolls back as his body slumps slightly. It seems to only take seconds before Billy’s eyes stay shut and his breathing evens just slightly.

Rick watches him for a long moment, and it’s clear to see the toll this is taking.

He has to remind himself of what Billy said. He has to remind himself of what he can lose here and what he can’t. He has to remind himself to stay strong, even when he can’t do anything, even now.

He has to remind himself, has to hear Billy’s words, has to see Billy’s bloodied face, because he’s scared if he doesn’t, he might never find the courage to believe in any of it as the hours go on.

-o-

One day has slipped into two. The guards come, leaving one bottle of water and a meager chunk of bread. They’re gone so fast that Rick doesn’t even have time to fully rouse Billy.

The sound of the door shutting does that job well enough, though. And Rick’s not sure which way to turn – toward the food he so desperately wants or Billy who so clearly needs him.

Blinking, Billy looks at him. “What happened?” he asks, voice parched and words hard to understand.

“They left food,” Rick tells him, scooting across the floor to retrieve it.

Billy tries to sit up a little, wincing. “I don’t suppose it’s a nice steak and a glass of wine, eh?”

Rick splits the bread it two, holding half of it out apologetically.

Billy snorts a laugh and shakes his head. “Maybe just a drink, then,” he says.

Rick can see what Billy’s doing. “No, you’re eating something,” he insists, thrusting the bread at him further. “And you’re drinking half this water.”

Eyeing him, Billy actually looks impressed. “What happened to Rick Martinez, uncertain newbie, scared in the face of impending doom?”

“Someone reminded him what was worth fighting for,” Rick says.

And Billy has to smile, his hand reaching out and taking the bread. “Well, it’s hard to argue with that,” he says, taking a bite.

Rick takes a bite of his own, and it’s hard and chewy. The water is stale and warm. Still, as he passes the bottle to Billy and watches him take a drink, he thinks it’s not such a bad meal after all.

-o-

Life with the ODS has always been different. Since the day Rick walked into their office, he’s known that. At first, their paranoia and extreme ways had been confusing and off-putting. But Rick understands it now. Understands it not as a façade, but as a self defense mechanism. Not as a weakness but as their strength. Michael, Casey, and Billy – they’re paranoid bastards because you have to be in a job like this.

It’s not heartless; it’s just survival. No one quite understands them because no one lives quite like they do.

Some days that’s easier to take than others. But here, in this cell, sharing this load with Billy, Rick understands it better than ever.

They’re leaned together against the wall, stomachs still growling after a meal too soon ended. They make small talk and avoid the things they’re scared of. They don’t need to say the things that matter; they both know it already.

They’ll lie for each other. They’ll stay strong for each other. In this, Rick finds comfort. Solidarity.

So when the guards come back, it’s harder than before to watch them take Billy.

This time, Rick fights. On his feet, he charges blindly. It might be stupid, but he trusts that the guards will feel their control strongly enough not to put a bullet in him right away. And really, he doesn’t care. Billy can barely stand on his own and Rick has to think they’ve taken enough from Billy by now.

For his trouble, Rick doesn’t get a bullet but the butt of a pistol flashes in his face and he goes down hard. His ears ring, his vision dims. He’s flat on his back, staring at the ceiling, the bare bulb burning into his retinas.

He’s breathing. He’s conscious. He blinks.

Everything recedes. The door is closing and time slips.

Rick thinks, how can he find so much but still not find what he needs? How can he have a team that he likes, a team that he needs, and not be able to give back the way he wants to? How can he save Billy when he can’t save himself?

The hows melt to whys and it’s minutes or it’s hours when Rick takes a strangled breath and realizes what’s happened.

Pistol whipped, no doubt, given the throbbing in his cheek. He lifts a hand and touches the inflamed flesh and it comes away bloody. It takes effort to sit up, his head aching in protest as he gets vertical.

The door is shut.

Billy is gone.

And Rick closes his eyes and tries to tell himself that if no one sees it, then it doesn’t count as crying.

-o-

It’s longer this time. Billy is barely conscious when he’s thrust back into the chair, and he almost laughs when they tie him down.

“I’m not sure I’ll be going anywhere, gents,” he says, letting his head loll back on his neck.

There’s no response as the bindings are tied tightly around his wrists and feet.

He laughs again, shaking his head. “You get points for being thorough, though,” he says. “I’ll give you that.”

The guards fall back to their position by the door. The interrogator is there.

Billy offers him a bloody smile. “Hello again, mate,” he slurs with sufficient cheer. It’s hardly a guise at this point; he’s near giddy with pain and exhaustion.

The interrogator studies him.

“Back to no questions?” Billy asks, frowning a little. “And we’d made so much progress.”

The man steps forward.

Billy shrugs. “I suppose it’s not your fault that you’re a slow learner--”

He’s about to continue but there’s a fist across his jaw, so hard that he feels the skin break as the blood wells.

It takes him a minute to blink away the stars and when he manages to, he spits blood, trying not to notice the tooth that’s been uprooted with it.

Wincing, Billy looks up. “Brass knuckles,” he observes. “That’s a creative upgrade.”

“You know the answers I seek,” the man says, standing over Billy.

Billy cranes his head to maintain eye contact. “And I’ve given you the answers.”

The fist pummels hard into his chest this time, and Billy feels the crunch of bone. It’s all he can do to bite back the scream. Still, when he looks up again, there are tears on his cheeks.

“It is in your benefit to tell me,” the man says.

Billy scrunches his nose, shaking his head. “I have,” he insists. “I’m the one who started this conversation, as I recall.”

“And yet everything since then has been a lie,” the man says, punctuating his point by kicking Billy in the knee and driving his fist into Billy’s gut.

The pain is obscured by the lack of oxygen and Billy fights for air, body straining helplessly against his bonds. “That is not entirely a fair assessment,” he grits out, his voice lacking strength.

This time the brass knuckles grind down hard on Billy’s hand, and he yelps, trying not to squirm under the onslaught of pressure.

The man leans close, still keeping the pressure on. His breath is hot on Billy’s cheek and the words are heavy in his ear. “Then you will die here.”

Billy takes a strangled breath. “Not my first choice,” he admits. As the man backs up, Billy meets his gaze with defiance. “But I can probably think of worse options.”

The man slams down on Billy’s hand again before kneeing him forcefully in the groin. Billy gasps, heaving for air.

“Tell me your affiliations,” the man demands.

Billy’s body is throbbing but he shakes his head. “I’ve tried,” he says, adamant in that.

One of his fingers is pulled back quickly, the snapping of bone happening almost faster than Billy can register. “You’ve lied.”

Billy’s crying in earnest now, but he still shakes his head. “It’s in my nature,” he quips.

He’s tracking too slowly or he might have seen the screw driver before it’s driven into the fleshy part of his thigh. This time, he does yell, just for a moment, breathing heavily just to stay conscious.

“So you admit then that you’re a spy?” the man says, twisting the screwdriver for good measure.

Billy squirms helplessly. “No,” he says, voice no more than a wisp. He takes a gulping breath. “I admit that I deflect real emotions by offering up friendly commentary and avoid disclosing real parts of myself by shifting attention to others.”

The screwdriver twists again.

Billy cries out but pushes on. “It’s all probably a psychological no-no, but I hardly think that this is what a therapist would prescribe to deal with such issues.”

The screwdriver is yanked free. “You promised answers,” the man seethes.

“And I’ve given them to you,” Billy tells him, trying to sound strong even as he feels entirely spent. “Without even being asked.”

The man’s expression is almost bemused.

Almost.

Before he moves forward again, thrusting the screwdriver into the other thigh and holding it fast while Billy screams.

-o-

Rick knows it’s probably a lost cause. He knows it probably won’t do him any good.

He doesn’t care.

This time, he stands at the door, pounding. He kicks and slams, screaming at the top of his lungs. He’s not sure what he’s saying – not sure it matters – but he throws himself at it again and again in total desperation.

When the door finally opens, Rick is too exhausted to put up any fight. He recognizes the man at the door vaguely, who is looking at him in total curiosity. “You are making quite a ruckus,” he observes. “Is there something that you think you need?”

“Take me,” Rick says, chest heaving. “Why don’t you take me?”

Rick’s not sure what he expects, but the smirk on the man’s face catches him entirely by surprise.

“We seek knowledge,” the man explains. “We do not prick pigs just to see them squeal. We prick the ones that will tell us what we want to know.”

Rick frowns, trying to make sense of it. He shakes his head.

“In all of this, you told us nothing,” the man says. “Those with no knowledge are no good for interrogation. Your friend, on the other hand. He has proven himself to be amply informed.”

Rick still shakes his head because it doesn’t make sense.

“But don’t worry,” the man says. “When we have exhausted him, we will use you to make him keep talking. You are a most convenient backup plan.”

The man laughs and Rick still stares. This time, when the door closes, it’s all he can do to sit there and try to understand.

Billy’s the one who told him not to talk. Billy’s the one who told him to stay strong. So what could Billy be telling them? Why do they think Billy knows something and that he doesn’t?

And suddenly, Rick feels more alone than ever in his cell as the minutes pass interminably by.

-o-

It keeps coming back to the same conclusion. And every time Rick realizes it, it makes him more angry than before.

He’s not sure what Billy told them, but he knows Billy told them enough to focus their efforts on him. He’s not sure how much truth and how much falsehood is involved, but Rick also knows that whatever Billy has said, it’s been to protect him.

Rick thinks he should have seen that coming, that he should have suspected it from the beginning. His team is infuriating like that--leaving him out to dry one minute while covering his ass the next. They have him and they coddle him, and Rick doesn’t know which part is more annoying.

It’s hard to be angry, though, when they bring Billy back.

This time, Rick ignores the guards and instead focuses on Billy, who is clearly being dragged between them. He’s thrown to the ground, the force rolling him to his side where he lays unmoving as the door is sealed shut behind them.

On his knees, Rick moves closer, rolling Billy to his back but he has to stop when he sees the extent of the damage. There are gouges now, rippling across Billy’s legs and a few burns on his arms. The wounds are all irritated, the skin red and frayed at the edges. His shirt is gone now, his pants barely holding together. The damage is extensive, ranging from his calves to his forearms, his neck to his groin.

So when Billy blinks at him, Rick’s more than a little surprised. “Keep gawking and people will talk,” Billy says even though his voice is spent and hoarse.

Rick can’t bring himself to smile. “What did you tell them?”

Billy feigns hurt. “You mean you think I broke?”

Rick just shakes his head. “What did you tell them to make them focus on you,” he demands.

Billy smiles slightly and his eyes unfocus, blinking wearily as they roam. He’s slipping toward unconsciousness, and Rick might think maybe that’s a good thing, but he needs to know.

Desperate, Rick takes Billy’s shoulder, shaking him. “What did you tell them?”

The movement brings Billy back and he shakes his head. “Nothing that compromises anything,” he promises.

Rick swears under his breath and fights to keep his temper in check. “You’re not telling me the truth.”

“But I’m also not telling you lies,” Billy says pointedly before giggling. “The difference matters.”

It’s probably shock, but Rick can’t worry about that. Not yet. “Not to me,” he says, finding it hard to hide his fear. “Why won’t they question me? What did you tell them?”

Maybe it’s the desperation in Rick’s tone, but Billy’s smile falters. He takes a few halting breaths and meets Rick’s gaze with new earnestness. “I only told them what we took,” he says, seriously now. “That I saw nothing more than their client data.”

Rick frowns. It’s not what he expects. “Why would you tell them that?”

“A little information to prove my worth,” he says. “To whet their appetite, as it is.”

Forehead wrinkled, Rick pushes the issue. “And what about me?”

“You’re the new guy,” he replies. He swallows with difficulty. “Hired locally as a linguist. You kept watch.”

Rick realizes the story Billy’s spun. He’s provided enough intel to let them know that he’s in on the mission and gain their interest. Rick’s own silence had played into it nicely, suggesting that Billy’s story is probably true, that Rick’s the lesser man on the mission, not necessarily the weak link but the uninformed one.

It’s remarkably flawless, actually. Revealing intel they already know solidifies Billy’s position as one of interest while also impeccably maintaining cover and keep Rick out of harm’s way.

This is why he’s backup. This is why Rick hasn’t been touched. They want to break Billy first, kill him for the information if they want. If that doesn’t work, they have Rick to leverage Billy or, better still, to ransom back to his family when it’s said and done.

Rick’s as impressed as he is pissed off. “So all that talk,” Rick says, throat tight. “All that talk about holding on, staying true, not losing yourself – it was nothing, then?”

This time, Billy looks truly hurt. “It was everything,” he says. “Everything I’m holding on to. Everything I need you to hold to. I won’t last forever, mate. I need you to find these things when I’m lost, yeah?”

“It’s not like that,” Rick says, feeling tears stinging his eyes.

Billy’s smile is nothing more than a phantom on his pained features. “It’s exactly like that,” he argues.

Rick doesn’t have the heart to disagree.

Rick doesn’t have the heart to ream him out, to yell at him like he wants to. Because Billy is lying on the floor, broken and bloodied, and no matter how stupid, he’s doing it for Rick. He’s doing it for his team.

Rick’s anger breaks, and he breathes out. “It’s a stupid plan,” he growls out, hoisting Billy up gently.

Billy groans but doesn’t fight as Rick pulls him back, positioning him against Rick’s body as they lean against the wall. “Aye,” Billy agrees, his body sagging as his eyes drift closed. “That it is.”

Rick holds his chin high, keeps himself firm as Billy lapses into unconsciousness and the hours tick by again.

-o-

Rick is dozing when the door opens again. Even if he wanted to put up some kind of fight, Billy’s body is heavy on his and it take effort to slip out from under the taller man and ease him against the wall.

The shifting rouses Billy, who looks at him through half open eyes.

Rick tries to smile. “Food’s here,” he says.

There’s not much recognition in Billy’s eyes, but he still nods somehow. Rick’s not certain if that’s reassuring or disconcerting, so he decides to ignore it altogether and goes about gathering their meal.

It’s the same as before. A single bottle of water and a hunk of bread. It looks a little bigger than last time, which is something, but as Rick carefully pulls it in two, it still seems woefully inadequate for his aching stomach.

Still, while his concerns are valid, Billy doesn’t have the energy for them. Even if he did, Rick wants to carry this weight since he’s not allowed to carry any of the rest of it.

Coming back toward Billy, Rick positions himself on the floor and smiles. He holds out half the bread – it’s the bigger half and it’s a testament to how out of it Billy is when he doesn’t comment on that.

As ready as Billy seems to be to eat, however, the meager process of lifting his arm is almost more than he can take. Rick watches the effort, trying not to grimace as Billy lifts one hand haltingly into the air.

It’s almost surreal to watch. Billy always does things with such ease, from making friends to fighting under pressure. He’s unflappable and indestructible, almost more than the rest of them because he never lets the pressure show.

And yet, here he is. Barely awake and struggling to reach out his hand. The shift is so sharp that Rick is almost nauseous at the realization. Billy’s not just bad off; he’s dying. He’s wasting away, barely holding on. If Billy doesn’t have the energy to hold his facades in place, then Rick knows Billy must not have any energy at all.

It seems to take forever, but Billy finally holds the bread. He seems to make an effort to focus on it, a line furrowed between his brows, and it’s almost painful for Rick to watch him lift the meager chunk to his mouth to take a bite.

Rick is still watching when Billy chews, and it’s not until Billy looks back at him that Rick remembers to take a bite of his.

For a moment, this is what they do. Take staggering bites, Billy too weak to comment, Rick too afraid to break the silence.

After some time passes, Billy manages a smile. “Not that bad, really,” he says. “The distinctly mild taste of mold adds just a taste of richness.”

Rick’s smile in return is weak. He can’t do it anymore. “Why?” he asks.

Billy frowns a bit. “Just the taste--”

“No,” Rick says, shaking his head. “Why are you taking the fall?”

Billy’s face turns grave, and the lines are deep and he looks old. He shrugs weakly. “Someone has to die here,” he says. “Two just seems superfluous.”

“But why you?” Rick demands.

“Because you’re young and vital,” he says. “Because you have the heart of a hero and the willpower to be a better spy than all of us combined.”

Rick shakes his head.

Billy smiles. “Trust me,” he says. “Your enthusiasm and sense of right and wrong is something that cannot be replicated. The Agency needs you. The world needs you.”

Rick shakes his head again, more adamantly this time. Because he can’t accept that. He can’t believe it. He can’t see his own life as worth more, his career as somehow more valuable. “No more than it needs you, or any member of the ODS,” he insists. “You don’t have the right--”

It’s Billy’s turn to shake his head. “It’s done,” he says. “The fates are not quite sealed, but they’re certainly stuck in their paths.”

“So that’s it?” Rick asks, incredulous. “I’m just supposed to let you die?”

“No,” Billy says. “It looks like it’s your turn to play hero.”

Rick’s face twists up in confusion. “What?”

“The compound is impenetrable but larger than they can staff,” he says, leaning forward, eyes intent on Rick. “We have two guards rotating outside. When they take me for a friendly chat, there’s no one except the single guard outside to contend with. Get a gun and it’s a straight shot to the first exit. A straight shot to freedom.”

Rick almost can’t believe it. It almost doesn’t even make sense. “What?” he asks finally, for the lack of something more intelligent to say.

Billy’s gaze doesn’t waver. “Getting dragged off for torture sessions does have its advantages,” he says with a small wink.

“But I’d have to escape when they take you,” Rick says, his voice barely a hiss. “I’d have to leave you here.”

“Divide and conquer,” Billy agrees, equally quiet.

“Except only one of us would win,” Rick reminds him.

Billy leans back a little, slumping back against the wall. “Only one of us has to,” he says.

Rick has the urge to yell, but Billy’s pathetic condition keeps him in check.

“I trust you,” Billy says, quite serious. “With my life.”

The implications are clear and it’s a responsibility that Rick can’t shirk, no matter how unfair it is.

“Now,” Billy says, putting the last bit of bread into his mouth. “Are you going to share that water or let me die of dehydration?”

That’s the way it is with Billy: he offers an easy option to obscure the fact that he’s being resigned to a much tougher one.

And Rick wants to protest. He wants to argue. He wants to rant and rave and point out all the flaws, all the iniquities – all of it.

But he can’t.

Because Billy’s sitting there, barely conscious, chest heaving. He looks worn and old and he’s just given Rick all the knowledge he needs to get out and all the blessing Rick could ever want to pose an escape, even at Billy’s peril.

And Billy’s asking Rick to leave him behind, to save him by leaving him, but he’s also just asking for a drink. Rick can’t refuse one without refusing the other.

Sighing, Rick unscrews the cap and hands it over to Billy. The Scottish operative’s hands shake as he takes it, and it looks like he may spill it all over himself, but he manages to take a sip, wetting his parched and bloody lips.

Billy offers the bottle back, and Rick is reluctant to take it. When he does, it still feels wrong, even when he knows it’s right.

That’s how all of it feels. Rick wants to resent his team for putting him in situations like this, for hazing him and protecting him all at once. He wants to tell Billy that partnership is about give and take, and Rick’s being forced to take, take, take until he doesn’t know what to do with it all.

But Billy is broken. Billy is broken for him. And Rick recognizes the burden he has to carry, the one that Billy is implicitly trusting him to stand strong under. Because Billy’s been right about this much: there is more than one kind of torture and there’s more than one way to break. If Billy can hold out under knives and cigarette burns, then Rick will endure this.

He’ll endure this because he’s not sure he has any other choice.

-o-

When the meal is over, Rick isn’t sure what else to say. They make jokes about their accommodations and muse about what Casey and Michael are doing. It’s gallows humor at its best, and every time Rick laughs, it hurts somewhere deep inside of him.

After a time, Billy drifts, slipping from consciousness without so much as a word. Rick watches him and thinks about joining him. He’s tired, after all – exhausted deep in his bones, and he feels the weariness pulling at his soul.

And it’s not like there’s something better to do. Locked in a cell, Rick’s options are limited.

But he can’t sleep. Billy’s words are still echoing in his head.

To think, in everything, Billy’s been taking the torture and plotting Rick’s escape all at once. As if it’s that easy. As if Rick has the capacity to pull it off. As if Rick has the heart to walk away when he knows that Billy is probably going to die in his wake.

As if.

He has to hold out, but he doesn’t know for how long. He has to trust Michael and Casey, but he doesn’t know if they can make it in time. He has to protect Billy, but Billy’s too busy protecting him to make that possible.

There are rocks and there are hard places and then there’s this cell, rank with urine and Billy’s blood.

There’s one way out.

Rick keeps his eyes on Billy, eyes on his bloodied face, slack in unconsciousness.

There’s one way out.

Leaving might be Billy’s death sentence, but Rick’s escape is also the only way to make sure that Billy doesn’t die in vain. Billy’s running out of time. Rick’s running out of time. If he sits here and does nothing while Billy dies when he knows there’s another way, he’ll never let it go.

Of course, if he runs and Billy still dies, he’s not sure he’ll be able to let that go either. It’s hard to admit that it’s better for Billy to die alone than for him to die in vain.

That’s why Billy took that first risk. That’s why Risk needs to take this one, even if it’s the last one either of them take.

Especially if it’s the last one.

Resting his head against the wall, Rick doesn’t dare move – barely lets himself breathe – as he sits next to Billy and reminds himself of the things that matter most.

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 04:57 am (UTC)
*THUD! *THUD! *THUD! and *THUD!

LJ wiped out my first review, but probably just as well because to be honest I THOROUGHLY ADORED THIS ENTIRE THING and it would have choked under the excessive listing of fave parts!

My gosh, so many moments when I came close to weeping, when the torture had me trembling when Billy's noble words melted me and also had me crying. You completely outdid yourself and I love you for it! This met every sick need!

My UTMOST FAVORITE Moment:

Rick scoffs. “So that still doesn’t tell us what we should do.”

“Of course it does,” Billy says, and his voice is surprisingly strong. He pushes himself up slightly, leaned off the wall and turned toward Rick. His blue eyes are intent, and Rick can’t look away.

“It does?” Rick asks.

“It means we fight,” he says.

Rick feels his protests rise. “We’re locked in a cell, you’re-”

Billy shakes his head, adamant. “There are many ways to fight,” he says, almost insists. “Show them nothing of weakness or fear. Stay true.”

It sounds good - it does, it sounds right - but Rick doesn’t know what to think of that. Because he’s tired and he’s thirsty and he’s locked in a cell and Billy’s getting weaker and Rick doesn’t know what to do.

The frustration mounts in him, boiling through his helplessness. “But you’re the one they’re hurting,” he says.

“Aye, physically,” Billy agrees. “But don’t think this isn’t torture for you as well.”

But this isn’t the torture Rick expects. He has himself prepared for knives and pliers; helplessness and futility are hard pills to swallow. “What if I can’t?” he asks, because he’s scared of the answer.

Billy doesn’t hesitate. “You can.”

Rick’s almost afraid to ask. “How do you know?”

“Because I’ve looked inside you and seen it,” he says. “From the first day I met you, I knew it.”

“But they’ll kill you,” Rick says.

“And you’ll fight harder,” Billy contends. “You’ll fight harder because, ultimately, it’s all you have. They can take your identity, they can take your body, they can definitely take your life. Sometimes they even take your soul, but they can’t take your will unless you surrender it to them freely. It’s the one thing you can never lose. You have to leave it behind.”


And the one (of many) moments that made me weep:

This is why he’s backup. This is why Rick hasn’t been touched. They want to break Billy first, kill him for the information if they want. If that doesn’t work, they have Rick to leverage Billy or, better still, to ransom back to his family when it’s said and done.

Rick’s as impressed as he is pissed off. “So all that talk,” Rick says, throat tight. “All that talk about holding on, staying true, not losing yourself - it was nothing, then?”

This time, Billy looks truly hurt. “It was everything,” he says. “Everything I’m holding on to. Everything I need you to hold to. I won’t last forever, mate. I need you to find these things when I’m lost, yeah?”

--SOBBING!!!!!! In the best way possible!!! Oh you paint Billy so achingly heroic, I just can't get enough!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 15th, 2012 03:44 am (UTC)
Re: *THUD! *THUD! *THUD! and *THUD!
billy content

This fic is Billy at his best -- even when he's getting the worst :) So it doesn't surprise me that you like it so much :)

Thanks!

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