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Chaos fic: Worst Rescue Ever (2/2)

March 4th, 2013 (06:44 am)
working

feeling: working

A/N: Continued from Part One.



In truth, Rick’s probably going to die. He’s got three downed teammates and more than one assailant shooting at him. Plus, at the moment, he doesn’t even have a gun.

So he has to save his teammates, kill his assailants, and somehow get them all to safety.

Without a gun.

He’s really probably going to die.

But not without a fight.

Keeping low, he reaches up and opens the car door above his head. He ducks around it, scooting forward until he can scoop Billy up under the armpits and start heaving him up. It’s difficult to do without standing, but since he doesn’t want to get shot, it’s the best he can do.

Billy is no help, of course, because this time, he shows no signs of waking. The bandage is soaked through now, blood drenching his pantleg and starting to drip to the ground below. His skin is too cool as Rick manhandles him into the backseat, trying to make sure he doesn’t accidentally shove Billy out the other side in the process. As it is, he has to shove Billy awkwardly across the seat, folding the too-long legs into the back before hastily shutting the door.

Gunfire pings above his head, and he squats lower, almost using an army crawl to pull himself to the other side of the car. Bullets start up again, hitting the car above him, and he makes a mad dash for the cover of the door, which is still open. Michael is sprawled beneath it, partially rolled toward the car, his gun lying abandoned behind him.

At a glance, Michael looks dead.

Rick takes a shaky breath and tries not to think about. Instead, he grabs the gun, releasing the safety as a fresh hail of bullets nearly splinters the door in front of him.

Cursing, Rick ducks down, curling protectively toward Michael out of instinct. This shooter is coming from the front, but closer than the ones at the car. He needs to get eyes on him, though, if he’s going to have a chance.

There’s a brief pause in the gunfire, and Rick chances a glance. Almost immediately, the gunfire starts up again, and Rick sees the flash of a muzzle from behind the dumpster before he pulls himself back to safety.

He curses again, letting out a pent-up, frustrated breath. This isn’t an easy shot, but what the hell. If he’s going to die anyway--

There’s another pause, and this time Rick doesn’t hesitate. He stands, aiming at the flash as it rises again and pulling the trigger -- one, two, three -- before there’s a cry and the threat is gone.

For a moment, he feels giddy.

Then, bullets shatter the window in front of him, and Rick draws back again. He’s heaving for air, his heart beating wildly in his ears. All this, and he’s still going to die.

Desperate, he squeezes his eyes closed and tries to think, tries to forget, just tries.

Gunfire interrupts his efforts, though, and Rick finds himself curling down tighter, craning his head back to get a better look. He can’t see anything, though -- just the shattered window and gray sky -- and if he dies, then Billy dies. And Michael and Casey.

Resolved, he keeps low and rolls Michael over. His team leader moans, eyes fluttering as Rick positions him on his back. “Rick?” Michael asks, voice lilting and uneasy.

Rick swallows, trying to look Michael in the eyes. It’s hard, though, because all he can really see is the blood spreading across Michael’s chest.

“Got to keep moving,” Michael murmurs, eyes flitting absently from Rick to the sky and back again.

Rick snorts softly. “If that was your rescue plan, it might need some work,” he mutters, too tired to care if he’s being snide.

But the emotion is lost on Michael, whose eyes slip shut just as the gunfire picks up again and Rick is left to fend for himself.

No, for all of them.

Now, he just needs a plan.

-o-

As it turns out, it’s easy to critique a plan -- Michael’s got to keep moving had been laughably simplistic amid the blood and bullets -- but as Rick comes up with his own, he starts to wonder if simple really is the way to go. After all, he doesn’t have a lot of choices. Really, the only option is to keep moving.

So he does.

Michael had been using the back passenger-side door for cover, so Rick wastes no time in moving Michael inside. It’s not easy with the intermittent gunfire, but somehow Rick manages to get enough leverage to hoist Michael up, pushing him into the car. Billy’s splayed across the bench seat, so he has no choice but to fold Michael up on the floor. It looks uncomfortable as hell, but considering the alternative, Rick doesn’t let himself dwell. Instead, he takes a breath, slams the door shut and makes his move.

The gunfire starts up immediately, and this time he focuses on speed instead of height, darting forward and opening the passenger door just as bullets shatter the glass as he dives inside. It’s only relative cover and the windshield won’t do much to protect him, so he keeps low as he snakes across the seat, his belt catching on the gear shift as he contorts himself into the driver’s seat.

For once, he’s grateful for his smaller stature, curling up almost like a child as he slouches on the seat and grapples for the ignition. There’s no key -- of course -- so he frantically rips open the steering column and reaches blindly for the wire. Bullets ricochet off the hood and Rick curses, nearly getting under the steering wheel as he looks for the right wires.

But they all look the same, and Rick’s sweating and his fingers are slipping as he tries to strip the wires, touching them together in frantic desperation for something to go right.

“Come on, come on,” he mutters, grinding his teeth together. There’s a lull in the gunfire outside, which Rick knows isn’t as good of a sign as he wants it to be. The shooter knows where he is, and all this time standing still gives the shooter all the time he needs to reposition for a better shot.

Rick’s going to die, he thinks again, stomach flipping. He’s going to die because his team can’t mount a rescue mission and Rick can’t create a spark and it’s just so damn stupid--

Then, the engine turns, rumbling to life. Rick cries out with palpable relief. It’s not a guaranteed out just yet, but it’s the hope of one.

At this point, Rick will take it.

Lifting himself, he sits bent over, his head almost lying in the passenger seat even as he grips the wheel and finds the gas with his foot. He hits it hard, but not too hard -- while crashing through the cars might be effective, he still has to find Casey, and if the older operative has been shot, running him over with a car probably isn’t the best way to save his life.

Still, he can’t see much and he can’t quite work the brake from this angle, and it’s all he can do to keep from careening into the walls of the alley even as the gunfire starts up again.

Rick’s fingers ache as he grips the wheel and his foot slips numbly on the pedal as he tries at a lurching pace. “Got to keep moving,” he mutters again, trying his best to judge the distance between him and the cars, him and the open end of the alley, him and freedom. “Come on, come on.

He’s about to hit the brakes when something jolts the car. There’s a loud pop that sounds like an explosion, and it throws everything off kilter. The car veers to the side and the wheel is wrenched from Rick’s hands as his foot is jarred clean off the gas, leaving the car careening recklessly. He has to sit up a bit, trying to regain control, and the moment he does the windshield is shattered by a deafening pop right as Rick sees the wall come up to meet them and everything goes dark.

-o-

But it doesn’t stay dark. At this point, Rick sort of wishes it would, but apparently today might not be his day to die after all.

Blinking, he tries to clear his vision but finds that his ears are ringing. His head aches and the side of his head is coated with blood, which stings his eye and tickles his ear. He shakes his head to clear it, but it’s not until a bullet lodges in the leather above his head that he really gets it together.

Because Rick’s not going to die. Not after all this. He’s just not.

Growling, he throws himself across the seat, undoing the latch and flinging the door open. Whoever is shooting at him has a great vantage point. It’s like they can follow his every move.

Which probably means they can.

Which probably means they’re above him.

On the ground, Rick squints up. His vision is a little blurred, but the next bullet directs his attention to the fire escape across the street. The man there is in a black jacket and studded jeans and he’s got an impressive looking gun, but he can’t shoot worth crap because Rick’s not dead yet.

Though, out of the car, in open daylight, Rick’s a simple target.

He has one shot at this.

He only needs one shot.

The man is reloading and Rick narrows his gaze, lifts the gun, and fires.

One shot.

One hit.

The man flails, falling with a cry as he tumbles from his perch and crashes to the pavement below.

Rick stares, too shocked to move. He’s done it. The alley is quiet; Rick’s still alive.

Then, his stomach turns. There’s some pleasure in being the last man standing, except that means his teammates are down, too. Billy came to save him, and Michael and Casey after that. They’re here for him, because a team leaves together.

After all this, Rick’s going to make sure they leave together.

No matter what.

-o-

Every instinct is telling Rick to run. He’s already tried hiding; now it’s time to make a break for it and hope for the best.

The problem is...

Well, there are a lot of problems. First, the car is slammed into a wall and still blocked. More than that, leaving behind bodies is sort of the kind of mess the CIA tries to avoid, and mostly, he has to get his team out of here.

One problem at a time.

First, the car. The car Michael had procured is a lost cause, but it occurs to him that there are two other perfectly good vehicles parked right in front of him. Hastily, he scurries over, stepping over one of the bodies on the ground as he ducks to the open driver’s side door. Exhausted as he is, he can’t help but grin when he sees the keys are in the ignition.

So they have a vehicle.

He glances back down at the body he just stepped over. The man could be dead, but he could also be alive. Rick can’t really do much about it either way, but if he leaves the body here, it’s going to draw attention. Plus, he’d probably run over it. And Rick may kill in the heat of battle when he needs to, but running them over after the fact seems superfluous.

Grunting, he bends over and disarms the man, tossing the extra guns into the car before dragging the lax form to the other car. The doors are still open so he hefts the man up and pushes him in. He does the same with the next few bodies. The man on the fire escape and the one behind the dumpster will have to stay where they are. Rick’s prints are already all over this crime scene, so he hastily wipes down the car and hopes the cops can’t pick up any prints off the clothes.

Then he gets to Casey.

Maybe he should have gone after Casey first, but the fact is, he doesn’t have a lot of options. Ambulances are not possible, and he can’t get out of here until all this is taken care of. If he had some help, there could be some thought to triage, but right now Rick’s working solo, and he’s doing the best he can.

Besides, the fact that Casey hasn’t moved isn’t good. Casey never stops fighting unless he has no choices.

Stomach churning, Rick tentatively rolls Casey on his back. At first, he sees the blood staining his shoulder. Then, he sees the bloody gash on his forehead. It looks bad, but as he probes the head wound, he realizes he could be worse. Casey’s been shot in a non-vital location but it’s the impact with the ground that knocked him out. All things considered, Casey might be the best off of any of his teammates.

Guiltily, Rick glances back. Cleaning up is necessary, but he’s too aware suddenly of the precious seconds he’s lost. Seconds where Billy bleeds out; seconds where Michael’s lungs fill with blood.

Seconds they don’t have.

Swallowing heavily, Rick lifts Casey, dragging him back by his armpits back to the car. It’s easier now that he’s not being shot at, and he manages to sit Casey up in a moderately comfortable position before hurrying back over to the other car.

The engine is still smoking, but the back door opens easily. Michael almost falls out, and Rick catches him awkwardly, trying not to feel the hot blood soaking into his shirt. It’s too far to drag Michael, so he positions himself carefully, getting under Michael and lifting him across his shoulders until the team leader is in a precarious fireman’s carry. The strain is palpable, but it’s not a terrible distance, and Rick makes short time before he deposits Michael as carefully as he can from the other side, propping him up in the middle seat. He slumps toward Casey, half flopped on top of him, but Rick figures it’ll do.

Jogging now, Rick goes back to the car to fish out Billy. The Scot is a tangled mess of limbs, and he almost drops him to the pavement once before he manages to get him over his shoulders. By the time he gets back to his newly procured vehicle, his shoulders are aching and his legs feel like they’re about to give out. He all but throws Billy into the back seat, checking just enough to make sure all limbs are properly stowed before closing the door and moving around to the front seat.

He sits heavily in the driver’s seat and glances back. His teammates are all there, pale and bloody and unconscious.

“Just so you know,” he tells them in the mirror. “This is officially the worst rescue mission ever.”

-o-

He’s shaking when he starts the car. By the time he gets back to the main road, he’s lightheaded and his vision is blurred, one eye nearly blind from the blood. He tries to wipe it away, but it just smears on his hand and ends up everywhere, so he just stops trying.

He doesn’t have the energy. He just needs to drive.

It’s a toss up to him whether or not to speed. With his friends bleeding in the backseat, time is of the essence, but he knows that any reckless behavior will probably get him tailed by the cops or the rest of the gang, which would lead to a whole lot more blood. As it is, he can barely see the speedometer as he does his best to stay just above the pace of traffic.

He’s nervous. No, he’s terrified. Everything has gone wrong on this mission, and with every mile he goes, he expects the next horrible thing to happen.

Except, nothing happens. He gets through the downtown and out of the tourist district. He makes it into the industrial zone when he realizes that maybe he’s gotten lucky for once.

It might even make sense. The car has tinted windows, no doubt an asset for the gangsters. Hell, maybe they haven’t followed him because they think he’s one of them.

Maybe this will work.

And then he glances in the mirror. He looks at his teammates and then sees the car behind him. It’s coming up fast but it makes no move to pass him. It’s nondescript but the generic black color and the dark tinted windows tell him all he needs to know.

Mostly, that Rick’s not lucky.

His fingers tighten on the steering wheel as his starts to go numb.

He’s not lucky at all.

-o-

In all honesty, Rick doesn’t know what to do, so he just keeps driving. It’s a tail, after all, but it makes no effort to hide. It’s matching his pace, with no aggressive movements that warrant any kind of reaction out of Rick. They’re almost out of the city entirely when it finally occurs to Rick that the driver probably thinks Rick is a Chinese gangster. He is driving the right car, after all.

There is a bit of humor in that, and for a brief moment, the tension eases in Rick’s shoulders. It could be awhile before the driver figures out that something is wrong, and that can work to Rick’s advantage as long as he keeps steady and doesn’t tip his hand. But there is still the fact that eventually Rick has to arrive at the US Embassy -- alone.

Glancing back at the car still matching his driving, that seems easier said than done.

He sighs, pushing a bitter breath out his nose as he looks at his teammates again. They’re bleeding; they’re dying. Rick needs to go. He might have used too much time already. He can hear Michael breathing noisily, but blood continues to drip down Casey’s face and Billy doesn’t even twitch.

Rick needs to go now.

“I could really use some advice here, you know,” he says to them, chewing on his lip a little.

They don’t say anything. But when Rick thinks about it, maybe they don’t have to. Billy came to his aid without a second thought; Michael and Casey mounted a rescue mission with no backup plan. When peril presents itself, his team doesn’t hesitate. They risked it all for Rick.

His eyes flit over his team again.

Now it’s time to return the favor.
-o-

To start, Rick presses down on the gas. He’s been slowly working up his speed, but now he forgoes all pretense of blending in and guns it. The engine revs, and he pulls away briefly before the car behind him tries to catch up. They make it a few more miles like that, and then Rick really puts his plan in action.

Which is to say, he starts driving like a maniac. He’s taken classes on evasive driving so he knows the theories behind it all, but none of that means much to him now. All that matters is getting from point A to point B and ditching the moron attached to his ass.

He takes hard turns, careening around corners at breakneck speeds. The other car follows, frantically keeping up with him, and they make it another mile before the son of a bitch finally realizes what’s going on.

And promptly opens fire.

It’s not exactly a good development, but it’s not unexpected. His team is slumped badly in the back, so they’re not particularly at risk for stray bullets. If they crash, though...

Well, they can’t crash. So Rick doesn’t even think it.

Instead, he keeps his foot down and finds a straightaway, ducking just a little as bullets echo and he reaches for one of the guns on the seat next to him. He tries the handgun, and rolls down what’s left of the window. It’s awkward to crane his hand back to shoot, but when he gets it in the general vicinity, he shoots several shots.

And misses wildly with them all.

He has to use his other hand to steady the wheel, leaning forward with a curse as the car shimmies from the speed he’s going. More shots are fired, one seeming to hit his door, and Rick curses again.

“This is stupid,” he mutters to no one in particular. “Because I’ve lived through how many pursuits? How many fire fights? And it’s going to end like this?”

He grits his teeth and holds his gun out the window and fires off a few more shots, hoping like hell that these factories are as abandoned as they look.

He barely has time to pull his hand back in, using his knees to straighten the wheel as he scrapes the curb and the car rocks precariously. In the backseat, Billy is half on the floor and Michael and Casey are intertwined.

He’s out of time. Heck, he may be out of bullets soon. And if he drives like this much longer, he really will be out of whatever meager luck he may have left. In truth, these things all look cool in movies -- high speed chases with gunfire -- but it’s actually pretty damn hard.

And dangerous.

Not because someone is actually going to shoot him or even shoot out his tire. But because all that straining and moving means that he’s probably going to kill himself and his team by running into a wall.

At least it’ll be over, though. One way or another, this is going to be over soon.

He lifts his arm out again, straining it as far as it can go to fire off the rest of the clip. His aim is a little better this time, and the car behind him swerves, but the maneuver costs him as he takes the curb and sideswipes a brick wall.

He yelps, cursing again, and the gun is jarred from his hand as he reaches back into take the wheel with both hands. Honestly, it’s enough to make him rethink this whole not-plan thing he’s got going on. He looks at his team again, unconscious and bleeding. They make it all seem so easy most of the time.

Then again, they’re all dying, so maybe this isn’t that easy after all. Not for them.

Not for anyone.

Not even Chinese gangsters.

Rick looks back in time to see the driver fire a few more shots right as his car swerves, taking the same curve that caught Rick by surprise. Only since he’s still holding his gun, he’s not so lucky. The car veers, then ramps up before flying through the air, flipping once before slamming full speed into a building. The wall buckles and the car crashes to the ground, the hood crumpled and the body mangled.

And just like that, Rick’s lost his tail. But there’s no time to celebrate. Because this mission isn’t over yet.

He glances in the mirror, sees his team again, presses his foot down harder, and drives faster.

-o-

From there, it seems like it should be easier. No one is actively trying to kill him, so really, it kind of is. But Rick is so shaky that he can hardly hold the wheel, his death grip the only thing keeping him on the road as he weaves back to through the town toward the diplomatic center where the Embassy and the FBI attache is located. He doesn’t hardly slow down when pedestrian foot traffic starts up again, and he only obeys enough traffic laws to avoid killing someone.

He doesn’t look in the mirror.

Instead, he fixes his eyes forward and forces himself to believe. Not to believe, to know. Really, there’s just not thinking involved, there’s just doing, and it may all be the stupidest thing Rick’s ever done and it may all end in disaster, but he does it anyway.

For his team.

That’s all there is.

He barely sees the Embassy in time, and he takes the turn so fast that he almost tips. As it is, he has to screech to a stop, the tires burning and the car skidding before everything just stops.

Rick breathes for a second, his head spinning. Outside the guard is yelling, and Rick fumbles with the doors, almost falling when it opens, before he stumbles to his feet.

He’s greeted with a gun in his face. “Hey, hey! Hands where I can see them! Hands!”

Just like that, he’s being shoved on the ground, face first into the pavement with his arms spread above him while someone pats him down roughly. He cranes his head up, blinking into the daylight, looking at the guard as best he can. The man looks tense, and Rick knows how he feels. But his head is aching and his vision is spinning and he wonders just how hard he hit his head earlier and it’s all he can do to say, “I’m American! I’m American!”

There’s still a commotion, and Rick is hauled to his feet and thrown against the car, the gun still in his line of vision. Rick blinks and everything seems funny. He takes a ragged breath, the adrenaline going to his head, dissipating in his limbs and just disappearing.

He feels himself sagging, unable to hear the questions anymore. Instead he says, “We’re Americans. My friends -- they’re hurt. I got here -- there are Chinese gangsters -- you should call the CIA.”

The grip lets up just a little and Rick squints to see more clearly. It doesn’t help.

Everything is spinning and he licks dry lips. “So if it’s all the same to you,” he says, at least he hopes he’s still speaking. “We could really use a rescue on this one.”

And then he passes out.

-o-

Rick’s going to die.

He’s not sure why he thinks this, but it’s the ever-present thought that presses at the back of his mind, nagging at him and pushing him back to consciousness with an unceremonious groan. He blinks, blinded by artificial light. His head is throbbing, and when he lifts his hand to rub it, he notices he’s hooked up to an IV.

Confused, his eyes open further and he sees that he’s in a hospital bed.

His heart skips.

Maybe he really is going to die.

“Oh, hey,” a voice says from nearby.

Rick startles, automatically on alert. He’s not sure what kind of defense he could mount like this, but he’ll try if he has to.

He’s not sure he has to. In the chair next to his bed is a slight woman with close-cropped blonde hair. Her accent is clearly American and her eyes are keen but non-threatening.

“They said you’d probably be awake, so I figured I’d just stick around,” she explains, shrugging nonchalantly.

Rick narrows his gaze, trying to figure out what kind of ruse she’s playing.

“You’re fine, by the way,” she continues. She gestures to her head. “Concussion. General bruises. Exhaustion. They admitted you as a precaution.”

Rick glances around, notes the distance to the door and tries to gauge if he’ll pass out if he needs to stand suddenly.

“I’m Andrea, by the way,” she says, pointing to herself again with a smile. “Andrea Dunlap, FBI. I feel like I should know your name since I’ve been on the phone for the last hour trying to confirm your identity, but the best they’ll tell me is that they can’t actually confirm or deny that you’re here at all, but that we are required to take good care of you.”

It sounds reasonable. She does look like FBI with her dapper suit and neat appearance. And the CIA isn’t in the habit of outing its operatives even when they pretty obviously out themselves.

Which Rick did, of course. By driving straight up to the Embassy and asking for the easy out, he basically set in motion a chain of interagency phone calls that probably reached the White House at one point.

Rick cringes; Higgins will be apoplectic.

“It’s not as bad as you think it is,” Andrea says, as if reading his mind. “I mean, your bosses were more concerned about whether or not you got the job done than whether or not I might have picked up any sparse details from what happened.” She pauses, studying him. “Though I have to admit, I am curious what happened. You showed up on our doorstep with three injured men in the backseat and a car that had been nearly shot to shreds. I don’t know who you were running from or why, but the fact that you made it? Seems like it should be a story worth telling.”

It is. Rick knows the hard way. From the mission to the motorcycle chase, to the hiding to the shootout, to the frantic escape to his last ditch beacon of hope -- it seems like a story worth telling.

But not to her.

Rick blinks again, his thoughts shifting. “What about my friends?”

The humor fades from her eyes and the curiosity is subdued. “Well, for starters, you should know that you pulled off one hell of a rescue--”

Rick shakes his head; he doesn’t want the platitudes. “How are my friends?”

Her jaw works, lips in a thin line. “Maybe I should call the doctor.”

-o-

Andrea doesn’t want to leave, but when the doctor asks her to go, Rick makes no effort to contradict him. She tells Rick she’ll be right outside, not that Rick cares about that right now. He just needs to know about his team.

He worked hard to get them here. He worked harder than he ever had in his entire life. All the things, all the obstacles -- everything. Rick hadn’t stopped to think about what would happen if it wasn’t enough. It hadn’t seemed relevant at the time.

It seems pertinent now.

Michael is the most critical at the moment, since he’s just barely out of surgery. He took a single round to the chest, which broke one rib and collapsed his lung. The blood loss was significant, but he seems to be responding well to the treatment, even if he is still ventilated and sedated for his own benefit.

Billy’s not a lot better off, though his wounds are clearly not as critical. But he’d been badly hypovolemic when they brought him in, to the point where he’d barely had enough blood to keep his heart pumping. They’ve transfused him, but his body is slow in responding to the changes, and they’re pumping him full of antibiotics to try to stay ahead of the inevitable infection from the untreated wound.

Casey’s the least critical, but he’s the one in the coma. The shot to his side didn’t hit anything vital, but the force had been enough to make him fall to the ground -- hard. Maybe he took another hit while going down -- maybe he was just unlucky -- but the impact caused a bleed in his brain. The doctors haven’t operated -- they think they can control it medically -- but only time will tell if his intracranial pressure will stay in check or not.

Only time will tell.

Overall, the doctor is optimistic. He says they all have good odds.

Rick wants to believe him; normally, he might. But after a mission like this, Rick’s not sure he even remembers how to be optimistic.

-o-

Rick’s the lucky one in all of this. Which is to say, he’s not lucky at all.

After the doctor leaves, Andrea comes back in. She looks ready to pepper him with more not-so-subtle questions, but he merely asks for a secure phone, to which she begrudgingly agrees before slinking off to the cafeteria.

He calls Higgins first, who isn’t quite apoplectic. At least not until he hears about the motorcycle chase, the shoot out, the dead bodies, and the like. Instead of yelling, though, he asks Rick if there’s anything to salvage. They didn’t get all the intel they wanted, but Rick can make a few critical identifications, and they still have a few active wires that have been transmitting data.

“That should be enough to make this little fiasco somewhat worthwhile,” Higgins finally concedes.

Rick feels spent; he feels embarrassed; he just feels tired. “I’m sorry, sir,” he says. “This is all my fault. I was the one who needed extraction and caused all these problems. It’s my fault.”

On the other end of the line, Higgins sighs. “You saved as much of the mission as you could,” he says. “You even saved your team. In our line of work, sometimes that’s as much as you can ask for.”

Higgins is right, which seems a little weird. Rick’s done everything he can. Mostly, he’s done his job.

Sitting there, though, it doesn’t feel like enough.

-o-

Rick’s spent a lot of time on this mission putting things in other people’s hand. He trusted Billy to get him out; then he holed up and waited for Michael and Casey. He trusted the FBI when he had to, and he trusts that Higgins will understand that he’s done the best he can. So this isn’t the first time he’s been idle, but somehow trusting the doctors is hard.

As it is, though, that’s all Rick can do. Michael, Casey, and Rick are mercifully moved to the same ICU curtain area, and Rick spends his time sitting at one end and watching them sleep. Michael’s vitals are improving; Billy’s body is stabilizing; Casey’s ICP is going down. It’s only a matter of time, the doctor says.

A matter of time.

And a lot of trust.

Rick wishes there were a quick fix this time. He wishes someone would whisk him away, would make all this right. He wishes he could hit a button and help would come running. But life doesn’t work out that way. Help isn’t perfect, and no one is superhuman. His team did what they could for him, and Rick’s done what he can for them, but it may not be enough.

That’s a hard thing to think about.

Mostly, as he watches his team struggle to survive, it’s just hard.

-o-

Sometimes things go wrong.

Sometimes things go right.

Rick didn’t die on this mission, and his team didn’t either. Michael is removed from the ventilator and Billy starts muttering in his sleep. Casey starts twitching, making small grunts from time to time, and Rick finds himself sitting in an ever-present vigil. He’s waited this long; there’s no way he’s leaving now.

Still, it takes time, and by the time the days have gone by, Rick’s weary and ragged. He’s had to talk to the doctors, run interference with the FBI in order to clear up the details with local police, and has endured daily briefings from Langley. In all, Rick’s had plenty to do -- just nothing that actually seems to matter.

And then, they wake up.

They have impeccable timing, which shouldn’t be surprise. Casey’s been waking up on and off for a few days now, though not cognizant, and Billy’s been hazy a few times too. Which is of course, why Michael wakes up first.

He opens his eyes, and Rick’s so out of it that it takes a long moment for him to realize the change. Scrambling, he sits up, scooting closer to Michael and grinning stupidly. “Hey,” he says. “You’re awake.”

He knows this could be wishful thinking -- he’s said the same thing to Casey and Billy and neither of them seem to remember it -- but Michael turns his head and looks right at him. His brow furrows and he frowns. “We got out?”

It’s surprisingly cognizant, and for a second, Rick doesn’t know what to say. He’s been so focused having his team wake up that he’s neglected to think about what he wants to tell them.

Apparently, that’s okay, though. From the next bed, Casey grunts. “And here I thought you were above stating the obvious,” he says.

Rick startles and makes a small sound of joy. “You’re awake, too!”

“We all are, lad,” Billy says with a groan. “It’s not polite to talk when some of us are trying to sleep.”

Rick yelps gleefully again despite his best intentions. He finds that his self control is somewhat diminished. Perhaps sleeping in a chair in two hour increments has caught up with him.

Michael turns his head to look at the others, too. “Did you guys manage to subdue the rest of the gangsters in the shootout?”

Casey shrugs. “I was about to ask you the same thing.”

Billy makes a face. “And I don’t even remember the shootout to which you are referring.”

Rick is so overwhelmingly relieved that he just gapes.

Michael cocks his head. “So who completed the rescue?”

He’s relieved. But he’s not stupid. He snorts. “Maybe the only one of us not lying in a hospital bed,” he offers sarcastically.

They all look at him. Michael narrows his eyes; Casey looks vaguely suspicious.

Billy lifts his eyebrows. “You?” he asks. “With all three of us incapacitated?”

Rick’s indignation flares. “What, you think I can’t do it?”

“You have to admit,” Michael says with a shrug. “You are a bit untested in the field.”

“I am not,” Rick objects.

“You did turn to your emergency beacon immediately when things went south,” Casey points out.

“Twice,” Michael amends.

“Because I had been outed by Chinese gangsters,” Rick reminds them. He points to Billy. “And Billy was dying!”

“Don’t listen to them,” Billy says. “There is no shame in asking for help. Every team needs a damsel in distress, as it were.” He winks with a grin. “And you do make a lovely one.”

Rick actually flails, arms going wide. “But I saved all of you,” he says. “You all managed to mount the worst rescue missions ever.

“They weren’t flawless, I’ll admit,” Michael starts.

Rick shakes his head. “No, they were horrible,” he says. “Billy got shot and crashed the bike in the middle of the city. And you two -- don’t even get me started. You alerted a whole team of gangster to our location and then both got taken out in a shootout!”

“Oh, and you think it’s so easy,” Casey says derisively.

Rick scoffs. “No,” he says. “I don’t think it’s easy at all. I was the one who had to finish the shootout, take out the remaining assailants, get a new vehicle, get out of the city, evade another tail, have another shootout, and make it all the way to the US Embassy -- all while you laid in the backseat and bled!”

He’s almost yelling by the end, his face flushed and his heart racing. Tears are burning inexplicably in his eyes as he stares them down, one by one by one. He’s no damsel in distress. Not anymore. Because he’s been worried and he’s been scared and the fact is, he’s been angry. Angry that his team left him in this position, angry that he had to do this alone.

He’s just everything.

“So, no, I don’t think it’s easy,” he continues emphatically. “But I am not a damsel in distress on this team. Which is why I’m the one sitting here and you are the ones in the hospital beds. So the way I see it, you have no right to question my rescue skills since you’re the ones who failed.”

The words stand, and Rick squares his shoulders, settling back awkwardly.

“Are you done?” Michael asks.

Rick knits his brows together. He nods. “I think so.”

“Good,” Michael says. “Because I think we should clarify one point.”

Rick hedges uncertainly. “What?”

“First, we are beginning to see that you do have a certain...resourcefulness,” Michael concedes.

“Though I expect your exploits are exaggerated,” Casey mutters.

Rick glares. “They are not!”

“All the best tales have a wee bit of embellishment,” Billy says unhelpfully.

“They’re not,” Rick insists.

Michael clears his throat. “We admit this didn’t go as well as we’d hoped,” he says. “But it didn’t fail.”

Rick stares in total incredulity. “How’s that?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Casey asks.

Rick shakes his head, at a loss.

Billy smiles, a little shyly. “As you have pointed out numerous times now, you are the only one still standing.”

Rick blinks.

“And we did go in to rescue you,” Michael says.

“Which means, in short, that we were actually entirely successful,” Casey says.

Billy’s grin widens. “So this is, in fact, the best rescue ever.”

Rick stares. For a moment, he doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t even know what to think. The logic is backwards; the sentiment is messed up. The idea just doesn’t even make sense. It’s so impossible; it’s so stupid; it’s so...them.

And Rick realizes he’s not really angry at them for getting hurt. He’s angry at them for getting hurt because of him. This isn’t blame; this is guilt. This is wanting to do everything to save his team and knowing it might not always be enough -- and trying anyway.

That’s why Billy came in on a motorcycle with no exit. That’s why Michael and Casey cut corners and picked up a tail. That’s why Rick did everything he did. Because they’re a team. They do everything they can for each other.

Just like that, Rick’s anger deflates. His adrenaline fades. He slumps in the chair and feels the exhaustion of the last week heavy in his bones. “You were still stupid,” he mutters petulantly.

“And from the sound of it, so were you,” Michael quips back.

“Stupidity is acceptable with enough justification,” Casey says.

“And I’d say getting each other out alive is justification enough,” Billy says.

“I guess,” Rick concedes. “Still. I think if your idea of rescue involves extended hospital stays, it needs some work.”

Michael chuckles. “We’ll take that under advisement.”

It’s not perfect, and Rick’s nerves are still frayed. He won’t forget this mission any time soon, and he’s not sure he’ll get the image of his teammates, bloodied and entangled in the rearview mirror out of his mind any time soon. But they didn’t die, and neither did Rick. His team did save him; and he saved them. They saved each other.

Which is probably the way it’s supposed to be.