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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: At the Wheel (2/2)

February 14th, 2013 (06:18 am)
okay

feeling: okay

Continued from PART ONE



Carson doesn’t have many super powers as a spy, but if there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s sleeping. He always sort of thought that was normal, until he joined the ODS. Malick is some kind of super freak who apparently doesn’t need to sleep when he puts his mind to it. He’s seen Casey go three days without even getting tired. Michael probably needs the sleep, but his mind is always so busy that he never seems to get enough. He’s not sure about Billy -- the kid’s still too new to know his sleeping habits -- but Carson’s hard pressed to believe Billy will be able to compete with him on the sleeping front.

Because Carson’s a good sleeper. He can sleep anywhere, any time. He can catch five minute cat naps in the office without anyone knowing. He’s slept in storage rooms and he’s even managed to sleep in bathroom stalls sitting up. He can sleep in seedy hotels and luxury suites. He can sleep with the lights on and on busy trains. He falls asleep hard and he falls asleep fast.

Carson’s just a damn good sleeper. When given the chance, that’s just what he does.

He sleeps.

And sleeps.

And...

He opens his eyes, startling awake. For a moment, bright lights blind him. He sucks in a breath and tries to sit up, and immediately regrets it. His head starts to throb, and he falls back against the bed with a groan.

“I had thought the odds were against it, but apparently you have a brain.”

The clipped dry voice is unmistakable. Carson scowls, but keeps his eyes shut. “It’s called sympathy, Malick,” he hisses. He opens his eyes to slits, turning his head just slightly to see his teammates. “Something you’re supposed to have for your fellow spy.”

“I’m a tourist,” Casey reminds him with a lofty shrug. “You’re an idiot investor who crashed a stolen car.”

Carson winces, this time not from the clear and effusive physical pain. “Man, I’d forgotten about that.”

Casey is unapologetic. “Wishful thinking,” he says. “Though, if it makes you feel any better, your driving was skilled enough that you were the only one to survive that wreck.”

It’s almost a compliment, so Carson’s about to take it at that, but then he remembers. His eyes open and he jolts a bit. “Billy?”

Casey realizes his oversight. “I meant, you and the kid,” he clarifies. “I saw the crash; the car was totaled. So I’m not sure if it really was skill, but like you said, it’s called sympathy.”

Carson tries to glare. It hurts. “You’re all heart, Malick,” he mutters. Then, he finds himself hesitating. “So the kid. He’s...still alive?”

At the question, Casey’s face darkens. Malick isn’t one to show unnecessary emotion, but everyone has chinks in their armor. Casey likes control more than Carson does, and when the balance of life and death is slipping away from him, he handles it poorly.

To say the least.

The fact that he mostly retains his composure is a good sign.

“He’s alive,” Casey reports, the traces of humor gone now. “Michael’s been with him, so I don’t know much.”

Carson gives him a look. “But you know something.”

Casey purses his lips. “I know that he was unresponsive and hypovolemic when they finally got him here. Head trauma, orthopedic trauma, internal damage -- you name it, the kid’s got it. I know we give him crap about his pretty face, but you didn’t have to go and mess it up to prove some kind of point.”

Carson’s stomach churns, and he curses beneath his breath. “You think I wanted this?” he snaps. “Hell, Malick. I spent the whole damn mission trying to keep that kid out of trouble. He’s always poking his nose into things, coming up with ideas. I swear, he’s got a penchant to get killed.”

“A martyr complex, no doubt,” Casey agrees with a disapproving shake of his head. “The dark flip side of the God complex the rest of us share. All the confidence and ability but with almost none of the inherent self preservation. He’s got something to prove, and he thinks risking his life for the cause will do that.”

He’s right. Michael’s the psychological one, but Casey’s got enough common sense to get the job done. And it makes sense, really. Billy’s an MI6 reject; having something to prove is sort of part and parcel of where he’s at right now.

So he has to take the risks. He has to boast about his credentials. He has to offer advice. Because he’s already been kicked out of one country, and for all his bluster and bravado, he’s just a kid. Not a rookie, and that’s the whole problem. He wants to belong; he wants to be accepted.

And Carson essentially chucked him through a windshield.

Sighing, Carson falls deeper into the pillows. “So is he going to make it?” he asks, not sure if he really wants the answer. Because he can still see the blood, still see the flap of skin on Billy’s scalp...

Casey shrugs. “Don’t know,” he says. “I’ve been stuck here at your bedside for the last few hours. But if you want, I could go find out...”

Carson snorts. “If I want?”

Casey shrugs. “I figured I’d let you feel like it was your idea.”

Carson waves his hand. “Go!”

Casey gets up. “And since you didn’t ask, I’ll tell you anyway,” he says. “You’re fine. Concussion is bad, but nothing that won’t heal. Everything else is just bruises and sprains.”

Funny, Carson almost forgot about all that. He’s never had anything resembling a martyr complex, but going for all the control hasn’t done much for him in the end. Carson just stares back at Casey. “Just make sure the kid’s okay.”

“Well, the plan is for both of you to be okay,” Casey points out.

Carson finds himself smirking bitterly. “We can plan a lot of things,” he says. “For all the good it does us.”

Casey makes a face. “Don’t go losing your complex on me over this,” he says.

Carson rolls his eyes. “Just go!”

With that, Casey leaves, and Carson takes a moment to just lie there. He thinks a little about the accident; he thinks a little about his injuries. He thinks a little about Billy, lying broken in the ditch.

He thinks about control.

He thinks about giving up the wheel.

He thinks about how that scares him, still. But lying here, helpless, scares him even more.

-o-

If there’s any place that makes him feel out of control, it’s the hospital. Carson’s come to terms with terrorists and smugglers and generally bad people, but doctors and nurses scare the crap out of him. Bad guys just try to kill you; doctors control every aspect of your existence, tell you when to pee and how to eat and when to wake up and then, when that’s not enough, they can drug you into oblivion -- all in the name of saving your life.

All in all, Carson would take terrorists any day. At least they call torture what it is. The sadistic doctors at the hospital act like they’re doing him a favor while they torment him.

Casey disappears, and he takes a while to come back. Carson doesn’t want to think about how this could be a good or bad thing. At least, he thinks it means the kid’s probably not dead yet. Casey wouldn’t postpone telling him that.

But that doesn’t mean things are good. There are a lot of degrees of being not dead, and since the last time he saw Billy was when the kid was bleeding to death and limp, Carson is inclined to think Collins is still fighting for his life somewhere. After all, if the kid was just fine, Casey would be back soon enough to tell him that, too.

As it is, Carson has to sit there. He tries to sleep -- it is his superpower after all -- but even that eludes him. He’s restless; he’s worried.

Damn it.

So much for control.

After about an hour, Carson’s about ready to try the call button just to see what happens when the door finally opens. He sits up a bit, ready to see Casey, and he’s more than a little surprised when Michael comes in.

Their fearless leader doesn’t look so fearless; he just looks tired. His eyes are rimmed with dark circles, and there’s stubble on his chin. He doesn’t smile, but he offers a sympathetic look as he approaches. “You look like you went a couple of rounds in the ring,” he comments.

Carson makes a face. “Yeah. With a speeding truck,” he mutters. “What did you expect?”

Michael lingers awkwardly by the bed, smirking a little. “Glad to see that the knock to your head hasn’t impeded your sense of humor.”

It’s small talk; it’s banter. It could be a comfort, but knowing Michael it’s more deflection than anything. Carson’s too tired and way too sore to play that game. “How’s Billy?”

Michael is unsurprised by the straightforward question. He shrugs one shoulder without missing a beat. “Surgery.”

Carson’s not sure what he was expecting, but that still takes him by surprise. “How long have we been here?”

This time, Michael sighs wearily. “Almost six hours,” he says. “You slept for the first five.”

Carson is indignant. “Six hours?” he says. “And Billy’s still in surgery?”

Michael can only nod. “The damage was pretty extensive,” he says. “The translator wasn’t that great, but I think they had to do some work on his chest and his abdomen. Plus he needs some work on his arm and they were going to bring in a plastic surgeon to, um...reattach his scalp. Last update I heard they were down to the nitty gritty. He’ll be out soon.”

Carson winces, his stomach churning painfully. Even with the hopeful note at the end, that’s not a great list. He tries to think about Billy, cut open on an operating table, a tube shoved down his throat with machines monitoring his every life sign. He knows it’s better than being twisted and mangled on the side of the road, but it doesn’t feel like that.

Furrowing his brow, the guilt is almost numbing. He shakes his head. “It was my fault,” he announces, a little suddenly. It’s not really his thing -- taking the blame. Lots of things are his fault, and he’s owned up to very little. But...he has to. Before he goes stark raving mad. He looks at Michael helplessly. “I was driving; I crashed the car.”

Michael raises his eyebrows. “It’s called an accident for a reason,” he says.

Carson shakes his head, because he can’t let it go now. “I thought I had it under control,” he admits. “I was almost home free and I never even saw the other car.”

It’s humbling; it’s embarrassing. Carson’s cheeks burn, and his eyes sting inexplicably.

Michael’s face is impassive for a moment, but then he takes a breath. “We make a lot of choices in the field that we can’t control.”

“But we’re supposed to, aren’t we?” Carson snaps back. “I mean, Billy’s always yammering away about how I should trust him, let him do something, and I always think that I can’t take that risk so then I take my own and this happens.” He gestures to his own hospital bed. “If I’d just let the kid drive...”

“Then who knows,” Michael says. “Maybe you wouldn’t have crashed; maybe you would have crashed worse.”

“So you’re saying not to trust him?” Carson asks.

Michael rolls his eyes. “No, I’m saying control is a limited thing. We can only control our own actions. The rest of the world is sort of beyond our reach.”

Carson frowns. “That doesn’t sound like a God complex,” he mutters.

“Well, I’m a deist at best,” Michael quips.

“I’m serious.”

“And so am I,” Michael says. He stops, lets out a breath and his shoulders fall. “Look, I control what I can but I understand that I can’t do it alone. We’re a team. I have to trust you guys sometimes to get things done.”

“Well, I sure did a bang up job,” Carson says, sulking.

“You’re alive, and so is Billy,” Michael says. “I still trust you.”

Carson wants to believe him. It’s sort of pathetic how ripe he is for comfort right now; maybe it’s the concussion. “And it’s that easy?”

Michael laughs. “I wouldn’t call it easy,” he says. “But otherwise we’d get nothing done.”

Trust. So says the paranoid bastard with a God complex. It’s actually a little infuriating for some reason, even though Carson’s probably known it all along. It’s just that Carson’s a spy; Carson likes control. And when he’s faced with how little he actually has, it’s a little frustrating to think that no one really blames him for it. That means control has always been a fallacy. That means all of his pissing and moaning and posturing is just that -- pissing and moaning and posturing.

“So, let me get this straight,” Carson says. “You would have let Billy drive?”

Michael’s face screws up in nothing short of abject terror. “Are you kidding me?” he asks. “The kid can’t sit still for a second. There’s no way I’d trust him behind the wheel.”

“What about trust?”

“What about common sense,” Michael says. “Someday we’ll let Collins drive. Just...not yet.”

“So you prefer me behind the wheel?” Carson asks uncertainly.

Michael chuckles. “After this mission, I might rethink it.”

Carson sulks.

Michael’s face falls, just a little, the confident guise slipping. “You know better, though,” he says. He hesitates. “I’m glad you’re going to be okay.”

“And Collins?” Carson asks.

“He’ll pull through,” Michael says.

“You sure?” Carson asks, trying not to sound as vulnerable as he feels.

Michael shrugs. “No,” he says. “But I may not trust him to drive just yet, but I sure as hell think he’s got what it takes to survive. No matter what. And I’ll trust that with everything I have.”

-o-

And then, Carson sleeps.

Maybe Michael has assuaged his guilt just enough; maybe the meds finally kicked in. Maybe he just finally let himself acknowledge that he’d gotten his brain rattled around his head and passed out. Any way it went, Carson sleeps.

It’s not exactly a sound sleep, but beggars can’t be choosers about this kind of thing. Besides, it’s still mostly on his terms, and this time when he wakes up, he knows where he is and what’s going on, so when he sees Casey staring at him, it’s not a surprise.

“Good,” Casey says. “I didn’t want to do the bedside vigil thing. They’re awkward.”

Carson tries to wet his lips, making a face. “The feeling’s mutual,” he says.

“So you think you feel up to a field trip?”

Carson eyes him skeptically. “I thought I had a bad concussion.”

“Well, I didn’t plan on hitting you,” Casey returns.

Carson sighs.

“Fine,” Casey says, holding his hands up. “I just thought you might like to see Billy.”

Carson perks up at that. “He’s awake?”

“He just got out of extensive surgery and he’s being kept alive by machines,” Casey tells him snidely. “So no, he’s not awake. But he is alive, and they’re letting us in one at a time--”

Carson is already sitting up, trying to swing his legs over the side of the bed. “Let’s go.”

Casey moves closer with a scowl. “Whoa, there,” he says. “Let me at least get a wheelchair--”

It’s Carson’s turn to scowl. “I’m fine,” he says, pushing to his feet. He wavers precariously, vision dimming and he falls back down on his ass.

Casey is watching him. “You were saying?”

Carson glares. “Just go get the damn wheelchair.”

Because Carson likes both hands on the wheel, but maybe it’s time to trust his team on this one.

-o-

It seems a little humiliating being pushed around in a wheelchair, but Carson has to admit, it’s probably a good thing. He’s feeling lightheaded and breathless by the time they arrive, and he’s the one sitting down. Which is another good thing since his ass is hanging out, which is not just awkward but uncomfortable as hell, too.

When they get there, Carson’s so exhausted that he doesn’t have time to think about what he’s about to see until Casey pushes him through and says he’ll be back in five minutes before the nurses catch on to the fact that Carson probably shouldn’t be out of bed. Casey’s gone before Carson can reply, and then he realizes he’s sitting right next to Billy.

It’s a sort of startling revelation. Usually Billy can’t sit still or shut up more than five seconds; his presence is impossible to overlook. In the office, he fidgets. In meetings, he doodles. He’s always muttering songs or tapping his foot or doing something.

Here, he’s just lying there. Laid out on the hospital bed, he looks like any other poor schmuck, pale and limp and lifeless. His chest is rising and falling, and the monitor beeps reassuringly, but there’s nothing Billy about him.

His mouth is obscured by the taped down ventilator tube and his head is wrapped with a bulky bandage, half covering his left eye. His arm is casted and his torso is wrapped and bandaged. He’s wearing a generic hospital gown and the thin blanket is pulled to his waist, leaving his arms exposed with two IVs. There’s a central line stringing from under his gown, and the electrodes are so plentiful that they’re impossible to count.

It’s a bit overwhelming.

Carson swallows and looks at Billy’s unmoving features again. Okay, it’s a lot overwhelming. Carson’s a spy; he likes control, and here’s Billy, not in control of anything. It’s not just that he can’t pick a mission or develop an asset. It’s not even that he can’t drive or that he’s perpetually the rookie.

The kid can’t even breathe on his own. There are monitors gauging his ever vital statistic and Carson’s pretty sure they’ve got Collins peeing in a bag. His heart rate is checked and monitored, because the kid can’t be trusted to do it for himself.

Because Carson crashed the damn car and Billy went through the windshield. Because missions go wrong and Carson can’t give up the wheel.

He swears. “I’m sorry, kid,” he says, letting out a shaky breath. “I thought I could do it better than this.”

And that’s the thing. He really did think. It wasn’t just that he wanted to screw Collins over. Sure, Billy’s sort of annoying but he’s a teammate, and he’s not a bad kid. He’s not even a terrible spy. Carson thought he could handle it. Carson thought he was in control.

Maybe that’s what Michael’s talking about. They all have their things. Casey can fight; Michael can plan. Carson can be a voice of reason in a sea of total chaos.

Even sons of bitches like Higgins can play bureaucrat. Women like Fay can be a stabilizing factor. Hell, even doctors can fix. They can all do things Carson can’t do, and that’s why they matter.

Looking at Billy, he’s not really sure what the kid can do yet, but he’s starting to think it may be time to find out.

With a shaky breath, Carson steels himself, keeping his gaze on Billy. “Next time,” he promises with all the strength he can muster. “Next time we’ll do better because we’ll do it together, okay?”

Billy doesn’t respond; doesn’t even flicker. He’s not broken and bleeding anymore, but that hardly makes it any easier.

Carson works his jaw, and he’s completely not going to cry. “But you need to get better first,” he says, voice cracking just a little. “So, get the hell better, will you?”

Billy doesn’t reply, of course, but the monitor keeps beeping and his chest keeps rising, and after everything, Carson thinks that’s probably enough.

-o-

Carson likes to think of himself as fairly adaptable. Spies have to be, after all, and he’s learned to go with the flow in order to survive. He can be who he needs to be, mostly because he doesn’t hold to anything so hard that he can’t live without it. That’s how he’s survived undercover work and long term missions and shirting teams within the Agency.

But damn it all if it isn’t hard in the hospital.

It doesn’t help that playing the model patient doesn’t get him very far. Sure, he might shave a few days off his release date if he can charm the nurses, but he’s still stuck in this miserable country as long as Billy’s laid up. And he doesn’t speak the language and smiling too much makes his head hurt. He tells himself that’s the concussion and doesn’t have the energy to argue with himself.

Besides all that, his concussion is hell. He’s had his bell rung more than once before, but this one has done a number on him. He still gets random bouts of vertigo and he almost passes out once for no apparent reason at all. He doesn’t decline the good meds and not even sleep seems to nip the persistent ache in the bud.

All that sounds like a lot, but it still leaves him with copious amounts of time to do nothing. There’s nothing on TV, and all the magazines are in some foreign language Carson can’t hope to read.

So Carson waits.

And waits.

And waits.

Billy still hasn’t woken up yet. He’s improving, and he’s not in a coma anymore, but he’s still heavily medicated and on the critical list. The doctors are optimistic as best Michael can tell, but the kid still looks like hell. They’re going to be there for a while.

That’s not exactly good news, and Carson finds the waiting even more interminable.

Michael and Casey take turns with him and sometimes they both crash with him for lunch, but the small talk is horrible. After three days they’re about ready to kill each other, they’re all so damn restless. Carson is struggling to find new things to bitch about, and so when he finally takes to the smell of the detergent used to starch the sheets, Michael rolls his eyes.

“You’re redirecting,” he says.

Carson makes a face. “Have you smelled these things?”

“We can all smell them, moron,” Casey mutters. “That doesn’t change the fact that Michael’s right.”

Carson sighs with as much energy as he can muster. “Well, geniuses, what am I redirecting then?”

“Concern,” Michael says.

“Worry,” Casey adds.

“General uncertainty,” Michael clarifies.

Carson scoffs. “You’re full of crap.”

Michael raises an eyebrow. “You still feel responsible.”

Carson lowers his eyebrows. “You going to psychoanalyze me?”

“Nothing better to do,” Casey says with a shrug.

“There’s plenty better to do,” Carson snipes. “Like taking a long walk off a short pier.”

“And then you’d have another thing to feel guilty about,” Casey says, entirely nonplussed.

Carson feels his frustration start to boil. “Well, excuse me,” he says. “Neither of you were there. You didn’t see the kid, lying there all bloody.”

“I saw him after surgery,” Michael says.

“And I’ve done nothing but watch him breathe for the last three days,” Casey says.

“I think we know,” Michael returns.

Carson feels like sulking; it’s somewhat inexplicable, but he thinks he’s within his rights. Being concussed and laid up and all. “Well, fine then,” he says dourly. “At least you all can leave.”

“The doctor thinks you’ll be out of here in a few days,” Michael tell him.

Scoffing, Carson sits back. “Gee, a few more days of this.

“It could be worse,” Casey says. “But if you want, I’ll clock you one. That should add a few more days at least to your stay.”

“Gee, thanks, Malick,” Carson mutters.

“We’re all doing the best we can,” Michael says.

“Are we?” Carson asks, indignation flaring. “We’re all sitting here like idiots, waiting for something to happen. We’re completely useless and you’re both pretty crappy company when you get right down to it.”

“Well, you’re not exactly Mr. Personality,” Michael points out.

“And you’re redirecting,” Casey adds.

Carson groans. “You know what? We are dysfunctional,” he concludes, looking at his teammates in total dismay. “Each of us. Especially together.”

“We’ve always gotten the job done,” Michael says.

“I don’t see how,” Carson says.

“We all have our part,” Michael says. “I’ve told you that.”

“Right, so Casey’s the heartless bastard and Michael’s the cold-hearted son of a bitch,” Carson quips.

“And you’re the whiny jackass,” Michael agrees.

“I was going to say the interminable complainer,” Casey says with an easy shrug.

Carson wants to be angry. For a moment he is.

But then, it’s actually kind of funny.

The anger builds and then releases with a chuckle. “Yeah,” he agrees, reaching up to scratch the back of his neck. “I guess it’s true.”

Michael’s face softens with a smile. “We are a pretty singular team. Hard to believe it works.”

Casey pauses, cocking his head. “So what does that make Collins?” he asks. “When he’s not busy being comatose, anyway.”

“The optimist,” Michael says.

“I was thinking the chatterbox,” Casey says.

Carson just shakes his head, because he’s sort of figured this out. Spending all that time with Collins, listening to the kid talk his ear off. He’d been so busy being annoyed by the words that he hadn’t taken the time to actually listen. Now that the kid was silent, Carson’s finally starting to see it. He’s starting to understand.

“Nah,” he says. “Billy’s the charmer.”

Because Billy could charm colleagues and he could talk his way undercover. He could flirt and he could make friends and he was nothing like the rest of them, which is why he fits in just right.

Casey considers it, then shrugs in tacit agreement.

Michael nods. “The charmer,” he says. “I guess it’s about time we had one of those.”

-o-

Billy’s the charmer, which apparently means he can work on his own schedule. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise -- Billy’s never been on time for anything since joining the CIA -- but Carson still finds it somewhat frustrating. He’s not OCD about timeliness like Michael is, but he generally likes things to go accordingly to plan. The sooner he can finish a job, after all, the sooner he can get the hell out.

Billy, however, does things however he wants, and everyone else just has to wait around for him. Carson might resent him for this, but since the kid is still recovering from life threatening injuries incurred by Carson’s lapses, he supposes he needs to cut Collins a bit of slack.

Still. Billy’s pushing it.

It takes him several more days for the kid to start waking up. Even then, it takes another couple before he’s actually coherent enough to know what’s going on. By that time, Carson’s been released and he’s able to walk around on his own without the wheelchair. He doesn’t bother to tell anyone that standing still makes his head spin; there are bigger things to worry about.

Like Billy.

The doctors are pretty upbeat at this point. All neurological scans suggest that there is no permanent damage. The infection is under control, and all the wounds are healing as well as can be expected. The sutures on his scalp are showing good signs of progress, and the plastic surgeon is pretty sure that Billy’s hair will cover any lingering scars.

Carson generally takes the good news in life -- there’s so much bad that it seems silly to contradict the good. But he finds himself edgy and restless, and he downright demands a private turn with Billy to make this all just end.

Michael and Casey don’t argue, which leaves Carson feeling pretty smug until he gets there.

Billy looks better. That’s the good news. Without all the equipment, Billy actually looks like a person again, albeit bruised and scarred and bandaged. Carson’s gotten pretty used to all that now, and he’s come to reconcile the garish nature of Billy’s wounds with the optimistic prognosis from the doctors. After all, Carson can still remember the way Billy looked on the side of the road.

But then Billy’s looking right at him.

Smiling.

And Carson wants to bolt.

It’s probably a pretty stupid reaction -- a smiling teammate is a good thing -- but Billy looks so eager, so damn happy to see him that it’s almost too much.

Because this is still Carson’s fault.

Which is, of course, why he has to stay.

With a forced smile, he makes his way to Billy’s side.

Billy’s grin widens. “Ah,” he says. His voice is strained and weak, but the inflection is still there. “You are quite the sight for sore eyes.”

Carson manages a smirk, though it’s a pretty weak effort. “I could say the same for you,” he says, nodding toward Billy. “You gave us a scare.”

Billy shifts a little, making a small face of discomfort. “So I’m told,” he says. Then the glint in his eye brightens. “Nothing like a bit of drama, though, eh? Can’t have the job getting dull.”

That’s so appropriately Billy that Carson almost wants to laugh. But he can still remember seeing Billy on the ground, and excitement has always been pretty low on his list of priorities. “If that’s your way of spicing things up, then we need to talk.”

Billy blushes. “Well, truth be told, it’s not my personal choice,” he says. His eyes flick to the equipment still around him. “This whole lot is a bit more than I bargained for.”

Carson doesn’t have the heart to tell Billy how much worse it was. He hardly has the heart to tell Billy anything. But that is why he’s here, after all. He just doesn’t know how to say it. Or anything for that matter. All the words are stuck in his throat and he stares at the rail on Billy’s bed stupidly.

“Yeah,” he finally says, rubbing absently at the bandage still covering the stitches on his head. “About that...”

Billy flits a hand through the air. “It was an accident, Carson,” he says preemptively, too keenly aware of Carson’s guilt. “I’ve learned the hard way that the best you can do is take the hits and keep on rolling, as it were. Though this is my first time rolling right through a windshield.” He winces. “Something I’d rather not repeat.”

He really is a charmer. It’s such an eloquent diffusion, that Carson’s almost inclined to leave it at that. Billy’s giving him an out, after all. A chance to end this conversation and never talk about it again. And there’s no doubt how appealing that is.

Normally, Carson’s all about the easy way out.

But not this time.

He gathers a breath and purses his lips. “I’m sorry,” he says, the words hard and flat.

Billy raises his eyebrows. “Contrition?” he asks. “It must have been worse than I thought.”

Worse doesn’t hardly cover it, but Carson’s not going there. He shakes his head. “I thought I had it under control back there,” he says. “Right up until we crashed and you got thrown through the windshield.”

Billy looks a little vexed by this, like he’s not sure what to say. It occurs to Carson that he was hoping Carson would take the easy out, too.

Carson sighs. “I just -- we were pretty much screwed,” he says with a helpless shrug. “I made the only decisions I could.”

Billy offers a small smile. “Aye,” he says. “Though I dare say not the only decisions there were.”

Carson doesn’t do apologies often, so to have Billy be contrary about it is actually sort of unnerving. And annoying. He glares. “Are you actually still going to say you could have done better?”

Billy cringes, and he looks duly chagrined. “No,” he says. “I mean, not exactly. Look, I know you did the best you could. There was no way to see the other car come -- no matter who was behind the wheel. But my point was that I do have something to offer this team.” He trails off, looking down at his bed-ridden body. “At least, I did.”

Carson’s chest twinges, and his shoulders slouch. “Hey,” he chides. “You still do. A little PT and you’ll be back on your feet. Maybe not right away, but you’ll get there.”

Billy chortles hoarsely. “Carson Simms, playing the optimist,” he says. “Now I’ve seen everything.”

“Yeah, well, don’t get used to it,” Carson says sourly. “This is just until you’re back in full form.”

Billy looks surprised again. “Are you saying my ability to see on the bright side may actually be an asset?”

“I’m saying it may be a necessary balance to the non stop negativity from the rest of us,” Carson concedes. “You said you had something to offer the team, and that’s it.”

At that, Billy is disappointed. “Well, I was hoping my years of service would count for more than that.”

Carson’s not soft. Not even close. He hasn’t made it through this many years on the job by having a bleeding heart. He’s never been Casey Malick, that’s for sure, but he’s often too concerned with fulfilling his own needs to worry much about the emotional grievances of others.

But Carson did just put this kid through a windshield and he’s spent so much time watching the kid sleep, that he can’t write off Billy’s words just yet, no matter how much he’d like to.

Besides, Carson knows now it doesn’t work. He can ignore Billy, he can mock Billy, he can tell Billy to shut the hell up, but the fact is, the only way Collins stops talking is if you put him through a windshield. All things considered, Carson has to take the talking over the silence.

Even if part of him hates it.

He sighs. “You just have to give it time,” he cajoles, trying to his best to sound supportive.

Billy looks skeptical.

Carson sighs again. “I’m just saying you’re still the new guy to us,” he says, gesturing a bit. “We can trust our experiences because we’ve had it together. You -- all we’ve got is your word so far, buddy. It’ll get better, one mission at a time.”

Billy shrugs feebly. “What did you learn from this mission that improves my odds?”

Carson grunts. Carson learned a lot of things from this mission, most of which he’d love to forget. If he’s going to overlook stupid things like the value of seatbelts and the various ways the human body can bleed, he’ll have to focus on the less graphic lessons.

Like how he can control a car but not the mission.

Like how his very best may not always be enough.

Like how each of them bring their own thing to the team, and maybe Carson’s ready to see if someone else can drive for once.

“Well, for starters, I’m thinking next time, you can take the wheel,” he says begrudgingly.

Billy looks genuinely surprised. “I must have hit my head harder than I thought.”

Carson rolls his eyes. “You say you can do it, so who knows,” he says. “Besides, it’s not like I’m doing such a great job these days.”

“What happened -- I told you -- you couldn’t have--”

Carson holds up his hand. “Anyway, kid, it’ll be a hell of a lot quieter if I let you have your way on this one,” he says. “It’s a wonder I didn’t crash sooner with you yapping in my ear the whole time.”

He adds the insult to sharpen the offer, but Billy still lights up like a kid on Christmas morning. “You won’t regret it, either!” he enthuses, his voice picking up a notch even if it still sounds horribly strained. “I reckon I might be a bit rusty, but this sort of thing is like riding a bike. Another skill which I am well practiced with, just so you know. Although I’m also particularly gifted with motorbikes, now that I think about it--”

Carson rolls his eyes. “Don’t make me regret this, kid.”

“Oh, you won’t,” Billy promises. “One time with me behind the wheel, and you’ll never go back. Not with my expert turns and precision handling.”

It’s already more than Carson wants to hear, and the more Billy talks, the less Carson believes any of it. It’s not an easy thing -- Carson is willing to give up a little control, after all, but not all of it -- yet, he reminds himself how he got here. He remembers the accident he didn’t see coming; the broken windshield that’s still his fault; Billy’s limp body on the ground.

This is better, like this. With Billy smiling and talking and generally not being dead. It’s not control, but it’s still the better outcome. It may not always be easy, but they might make a good team yet.

Time will tell, anyway. And Carson is just along for the ride while they all find out.

Comments

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: February 14th, 2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
Inconspicuous

Now I kinda want a fic where Billy shows them that he is the better driver :)

I love your take on Carson and his view of the world. It's a perfect sequel to his betrayal of the team, because he likes to take the easy way out.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 21st, 2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
billy watches

LOL, I love how one fic idea spawns another :) Though it would be awesome to do something like you did once -- Billy does awesome driving all while being shot...

Carson was fun to write in this. And I'm glad you could see traces of how he'd end up. That was a huge factor in determining his personality for this.

Thanks!

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