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Chaos fic: A Turn out of Time

March 26th, 2013 (06:06 am)
indifferent
Tags: , ,

feeling: indifferent

Title: A Turn out of Time

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: For Adrian Nox, on her birthday. And all the other Rick whumpers out there. This is my pittance. Beta give by sockie1000

Summary: The details may change; perception may alter the interpretation a bit, but the ending is what matters.



-o-

Billy’s head hurts. His chest is tight, and he stands stiffly, working to keep himself upright. His vision is still gray around the edges, and everything is oddly effusive. It’s the concussion, he reminds himself, and swallows back a bout of nausea for good measure.

A concussion to match his broken ribs and busted arm. The doctors want to keep him in a bed for observation, but Billy’s got no patience for it. They can observe him from here anyway.

Because this is where Billy belongs. An ICU room, crowded by equipment. Only he shouldn’t be standing. No, he should be lying in the bed, hooked up to the ventilator, only as alive as the machines around him.

That’s not him, though. No matter how much it should be. How much he wishes it was.

No. It’s not Billy. This time it’s Rick.

And all Billy can do is stand there and feel helpless.

-o-

It starts in a warehouse in Poland. Billy’s on his knees, and his nose is leaking blood. His ribs ache and if it weren’t for the men holding him up, he’d be curled up on the floor in agony. His vision is blurred from where he’s been clocked more than once, but he can still see the gun.

Pointed straight at his head.

He could fight, but there’s no point. He’s well and caught, and he’s outnumbered. Bielski made him; Bielski doesn’t tolerate betrayal. There’s nothing to do. Nothing left at all.

Billy’s buggered the mission. His cover’s been blown; the intel has been compromised. This is a loss for them, in every way possible. Michael will wonder what he did wrong; Casey will wonder how he could have fought harder. Rick will understand death in the field.

And Billy won’t do much at all.

The safety releases, the finger hovers on the trigger.

Billy closes his eyes.

-o-

Somewhere, there’s pain. Billy wants to escape it, but this time, the dark won’t have him. By the time he’s aware of that much, his eyes are already open.

“Hey,” Casey says, and he’s standing close, looking down. Billy doesn’t recognize the ceiling behind him. “You think you can remember your cover? Michael’s trying to do the paperwork, but this whole thing’s a mess.”

Billy blinks and takes a breath, and realizes he’s got an oxygen mask strapped to his face. His brow furrows.

Casey’s mouth sets grimly. “Look, I know this is hard for you, but just don’t say anything,” he says. “We have to figure this out.”

But Billy shakes his head. He wants to move, but his body feels leaden. He tries to lift a hand, but nothing seems to work.

Distantly, a monitor beeps. Casey glances to the side and pales. “You need to stay calm,” he says. “They’re taking you up to surgery soon -- at least, that’s the best I can tell. My Polish is rusty.”

Billy swallows and pain blossoms in his chest. Tears leak from his eyes, but he has to ask. He has to know. “Rick?”

The word is scratchy and broken, lost in the hollow cavity of the mask, but he holds Casey’s gaze and wills him to understand.

Casey goes still, almost blanching. His jaw works and he doesn’t even seem to breathe as he reaches down and squeezes Billy’s arm. “Just focus on yourself for now, okay?”

This time, the darkness wins.

-o-

Michael is cautious, which is different than normal. He’s paranoid and meticulous but he’s rarely downright worried in a way that Billy can see.

“It’s a bit touchy, I’ll admit,” Billy concedes in their motel room. “But we’ve been going over this for weeks now. It’s as good as it’s going to get.”

Casey sighs from the bed, stretching his leg high above him. “It would be nice if we had a better way to track you undercover,” he says.

Billy waves a hand in the air. “If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s selling a cover,” he says dismissively.

“These people have a history,” Michael reminds him. “Bielski doesn’t mess around. If they even suspect--”

“Well, I’m not going in alone,” Billy returns, grinning brightly.

Rick is pacing by the windows, but he stops to look back earnestly. “As a security guard, I do have good access,” he says.

“But what if he’s not on duty when things go south?” Michael asks. “Casey and I will be too far out--”

“We all stay on an annex by the compound,” Rick says. “I’ll be there as fast as I can.”

“See,” Billy says, pointing at Rick jovially. “All covered. There’s no one I trust more than wee Rick with my life.”

Rick makes a face. “Wee?”

Billy shrugs. “Figure of speech.”

“If you’re sure,” Michael says, the words trailing off, leaving Billy every out in the world.

But Billy glances at Rick with an emphatic nod. “We’re both sure,” he says. “Aren’t we, lad?”

Rick is serious when he inclines his head. “I’ll have your back.”

-o-

“I need to see him,” Billy says as soon as the doctors are gone. He’s been moved out of post-op to a room, and his mouth feels like cotton and his head hurts every time he blinks.

Michael hardly acknowledges him, hands stuffed in his pockets as he leans against the wall. “They just cut open your head,” he says.

“A small hole,” Billy returns, trying to prop himself up. “It’s a concussion.”

“No, it’s a hematoma,” Michaels says.

Billy sighs. “A small one,” he says. “They took care of it. I’ve got nothing left of concern but a concussion. I’m fine.”

Michael cocks one eyebrow skeptically. “You sure about that?”

Billy’s not sure about anything, and the more he levers himself up, the worse he feels. The room is spinning, his stomach is churning, and his vision is going dark even as he steels himself against it.

Michael is there, then, holding his arm. Billy blinks a few times, trying to clear his vision. “You need to rest,” he orders, more sternly now.

Billy sags back, looking up at Michael. “I need to see him.”

Michael’s doing his best to guard his expression, but Billy can see the flicker of worry behind his eyes. He hesitates, loosening his grip on Billy’s arm but not letting go. “Nothing’s changed.”

Billy sighs. “So he’s still in a bloody coma, fighting for his life?”

This time, Michael lets go, shrinking back a step. “They think they’re getting the infection under control,” he says. “And they’re pretty sure they saved his kidney.”

“But he’s still hovering near septic shock,” Billy says tersely. He grinds his teeth together so hard that his head almost explodes with pain. He swallows and blinks away tears. “That bullet was meant for me.”

“You took a bullet, remember?” Michael says. “To the head.”

“It was a graze,” Billy retorts.

“That gave you a hematoma,” Michael says.

“Which is essentially a bad concussion!”

“You’re staying in that bed,” Michael tells him, voice flat and eyes hard now.

“I need to see him,” Billy says again, almost pleading now.

Michael’s expression softens, but his stance doesn’t change. “He didn’t save your life just so you could go around risking it again,” he says. “So you’re staying in that bed until the doctor clears you, understood?”

The frankness of it hits Billy hard. The words echo in his mind hollowly, and he finds himself spent. Because Michael’s right, of course. Rick’s the reason Billy’s still alive. Billy’s been daft enough on this mission, and he has no right defying orders after blowing his cover in the field.

Because Rick’s the reason Billy’s alive.

And Billy’s the reason Rick’s closer to death.

And there’s nothing Billy can do about that.

-o-

The thing is, Billy sees it coming. The signs are there the entire time. The lingering glances he gets, the cautious smiles, the repetitive questions about his backstory. These are the things people do when they’re dubious. These are the things people do when they suspect a traitor.

But Billy smiles. He deflects. He answers all their questions with ease. Because Billy sees it coming, but he thinks he can divert it anyway.

So when he’s taken to the warehouse, he fully expects to be prepping a shipment. He’s loading a box, and when he turns, the fist catches him off guard. The punch knocks him to the ground, the box skidding from his grip. He’s blinking away the stars when the kick hits his ribs.

It steals his breath, and he flails, trying to catch his breath. He manages to dodge the next blow, scrambling to his feet and throwing a punch of his own. He gets a few more shots before he misses, and while he’s off balance, he has no way to stop the blow that lands directly across his cheek.

His vision fades and his body goes limp. He doesn’t pass out, and he can feel the blows as they rain down on him. His head, his torso. Something snaps in his arms.

There’s nothing he can do.

He’s alone; he has no way to call in backup. Michael was right. He’s alone.

Because Billy saw this coming, and he did nothing to stop it. He’s postured and he’s joked, he’s reassured and he’s lied. He’s told his team that he can handle it.

He’d been so sure.

He’d been wrong.

Billy never thought about dying alone, beaten and broken from a cover gone bad.

Though really, Billy’s never thought about dying at all.

-o-

Billy’s head aches and the stitches itch. He fiddles with the bandage as he slumps in the chair next to Rick’s bed.

The younger operative looks worse. His skin is grey but fever flushes his cheeks, leaving him sickly and gaunt. He hasn’t moved, body prone as the machines breathe for him, monitoring every blip of his fledgling life.

It’s septic shock, Billy knows. The doctors hedge, but their sad looks are telling enough. The infection from the gut shot is pervasive now. The doctors tried to explain about the placement, about how the bullet had ricocheted and traveled, how maybe if he’d gotten immediate treatment, maybe if he hadn’t moved so much.

Billy hears them, but doesn’t. Because all he really knows is that Rick is dying, and it’s Billy’s fault.

Worse still, there’s nothing he can do. Except wait. Watch. Worry.

Billy’s always talked about hope, about believing, about facing the dark with grace and dignity.

He would run from it now, if he could. He wants to. He wants to wail and hide, to curl up and die.

He can’t, though. Because Rick took the shot for Billy, and now he’s dying, and if Billy can’t do anything, he’ll stay with Rick. The kid shouldn’t have to be alone.

This is all Billy can do.

It’s not enough.

-o-

The gun fires.

Close range; Bielski can’t miss.

Billy’s breath catches, and his life flashes before his eyes.

He’s seven, locked inside the cupboard again. He’s crying but he knows better than to beg. He’ll be let out when he’s good enough, when he’s finally good enough.

He’s ten, and his wrist is broken. He tells his mother he crashed his bike, and hopes she doesn’t go looking for it to see it’s still in one piece in Bobby Gilroy’s garden, a penance for a fight he couldn’t win.

He’s twelve, and he’s in a graveyard. He doesn’t listen to the priest who recites a prayer for his father. He stares at the ground, the churned up dirt and wonders if man is so easily reduced to that.

He’s sixteen, getting kicked out of school. His mother doesn’t cry anymore, and he knows that’s his fault, too.

He’s eighteen, loving university. He doesn’t study, but he drinks hard and sleeps around, quoting Shakespeare like it’s the only truth he has to know.

He’s twenty-two, and a new recruit. His first mission is dark and dangerous; so classified even he refuses to remember the details.

Twenty-six and he’s the golden boy. Twenty-nine and he’s lost it all. Thirty and he has a second chance. Thirty-three and he loses a friend. Thirty-six and he makes a new one.

Thirty-nine, and a bullet is speeding toward his head.

He opens his eyes and the shot is still echoing between his ears.

He waits, braces for impact, but he’s not alone anymore.

Because there’s Rick, mouth contorted in a primal scream as he runs.

And Billy closes his eyes again.

-o-

It starts long before any of this, actually.

It starts back at MI6 when Billy Collins got to pick any mission he wanted. He’s earned his credibility, and he uses it well. He does his job like he has nothing to lose, because working solo, he doesn’t seem to.

But then he does.

It starts not with the first mistake, but the last. Billy never wanted to be part of a team, and when he screwed up, there was no one else to soften the fall. There was no one else.

It starts with a botched mission, a scathing debriefing, an irreversible decommissioning.

It starts with a deportation.

It starts with a second chance.

That’s where it starts.

It ends with a man, though. Older, but not wiser. Because he’s still making all the same mistakes. Only this time, there’s someone else.

And the fall is a whole hell of a lot harder.

-o-

Billy can’t turn his head.

There are a lot of other things that should bother him, but for some reason, this is the most pressing concern. His eyes dart and his body tenses, but when he tries to shift, there’s something holding him down.

Then, a light flashes in his eyes and he doesn’t recognize the faces above him. The voices are fast and distant, talking in a language he doesn’t understand. When one of them finally steadies, the blue eyes make contact with his own and Billy can’t see the person speak behind the surgical mask.

“Sir, we are going to help you,” he said, stilted and heavily accented. “Is there someone we can contact for you?”

Billy blinks rapidly, tears burning in his eyes. He can’t shake his head; he can’t nod. He thinks of Michael and Casey, but he can’t remember their aliases.

He thinks of Rick.

“Sir,” the man says again. “Is there someone we should talk to?”

Billy can’t bring himself to speak.

-o-

Billy doesn’t want to go back to his room, but Michael promises that one of them will stay with Rick. “He won’t be alone.”

It’s as much of a promise Billy can ask for, and he finds that when he’s back in his room, he no longer has the energy to stand. He curls up on his side and doesn’t bother closing his eyes. Sleep is too easy for him.

Nurses come and leave food. They take his vitals, take him to the bathroom. Billy complies, but leaves the trays untouched as he stares at the wall.

Casey comes; he makes a few attempts at conversation but he goes, too. When Michael comes back, he stares at Billy with a frown.

“Casey’s worried about you,” he announces.

Billy doesn’t bother to shrug.

Michael purses his lips. “He says you’re not eating,” he continues. “I mean, I’m no fan of Polish food, but I know you like bialys.”

Billy just keeps staring.

Michael sighs. “Damn, he didn’t say you were damn near catatonic,” he mutters.

Billy blinks.

With another sigh, Michael rolls his eyes. “Look,” he says, tilting his head to look into Billy’s eyes. “I know this isn’t easy for you. Hell, it’s not easy for any of us, but--”

Billy snorts.

Michael pauses. “Something you want to say?”

Billy’s eyes flicker to Michael, latching on. “Rick’s here because of me,” he says. “His blood is literally on my hands. This isn’t supposed to be easy.

“Okay,” Michael says with a slow nod. “Maybe not. So you think you get to roll over and give up?”

Billy’s eyes drift back to the wall. “I deserve less.”

“Maybe,” Michael agrees. “But this isn’t about you.

Billy refuses to look at him.

“You said it yourself, Rick’s here because of you,” he continues. “He’s here because he saved your life. And what? You want that sacrifice to mean nothing?”

The words sting -- which Billy can gather is entirely the point -- and he has to swallow forcibly. “It already does,” he chokes out.

Michael scoffs. “Rick saved your life whether you like it or not,” he says, lifting up the cover off of Billy’s tray next to his bed. “And you’re sure as hell not going to blow that now.”

Billy’s chest tightens and his stomach goes cold. “That would mean something were Rick awake to care,” he says tersely. “Last I checked, Martinez was in a coma with a dangerously high fever.”

“You bet,” Michael says. “He’s also showing signs of continued internal bleeding. He’s a mess.”

Billy flinches at the admission, and he feels light headed, shaky.

Michael picks up the fork. “If you don’t get up and eat, I’ll haul your ass over to Rick’s room and make you die in front of him, and see how that feels,” he threatens. “Because when he wakes up -- and he will wake up -- the first thing he’s going to ask about is you. So you sure as hell are going to pick up that fork and eat your damn dinner.”

Billy doesn’t want to, but Billy doesn’t have a choice.

Not when Rick is hurt; not when Rick is dying.

Not when this is Billy’s fault.

-o-

Billy doesn’t feel the bullet; he doesn’t feel himself hitting the ground.

But he feels the pain.

It explodes in his head, sparking lights behind his eyes. Everything bursts into a thousand disparate pieces and his consciousness is eclipsed by unrelenting and overwhelming agony. It pulsates, vibrating through every synapse in his brain, leaving him paralyzed and breathless on the grounds.

He’s not dead, though, and when his vision clears, he realizes he’s on his side. His face is burning, wet and heavy, and his vision is gauzy, the lights haloed and the movements tracking like an out of synch video.

Still, Billy can see.

He can see his attackers; he can see the gun.

He can see Rick as he fights, disarming one, then another, then another. They go down, and when they get back to their feet, Rick still comes at them. He fights without class or nuance, going on a desperate and effective offensive.

There were three attackers.

And then, there’s only Rick.

He stands, chest heaving, face glistening with sweat. Blood trickles from his nose, and a welt is forming across his cheek even as his eyes settle on Billy.

There’s only Rick.

-o-

It’s Billy’s turn.

He doesn’t get equal time at Rick’s side, but he insists upon being part of the rotation. The doctors don’t speak good enough English to argue with him, and Michael and Casey have other things to worry about.

Billy’s settled in, head propped up on a hand as he tries to keep his bottom from going numb, when an alarm sounds.

Startling, he sits up, his vision going dark for a long moment before he realizes that this time, it’s not a fluke. One alarm is followed by another, and soon the room is flooded with medical personnel.

He’s pushed back and when he tries to get close, someone stops him. Someone tells him something about bleeding, about surgery, about how they have to go now, but when Billy tries to stand on his toes to see Rick, all he sees is the kid’s lifeless features as one of the nurses disconnects the vent and starts to bag him by hand.

Billy’s held back as the gurney’s wheels are unlocked, and he can only watch as Rick is wheeled away.

Standing there, he thinks about how it’s supposed to be his turn. He should be on that gurney. He should be fighting for his life.

It’s his turn.

-o-

Billy’s cover is deep, and he only gets a few minutes to check in with Rick before someone might get suspicious. He’s catching a smoke -- it burns his lungs and reminds him of his father, but it’s his best excuse for taking five minutes outside with the help.

Rick is cleaning a window, and he doesn’t look at Billy when he talks. “These guys are hyper paranoid.”

“Being international criminals will do that to you,” Billy muses idly, taking a short puff with a wince.

Rick gets his rag wet, shaking his head. “I’m starting to think Michael’s right.”

Billy clucks his tongue, knitting his brows at Rick. “You’re too young for such cynicism,” he scolds.

Rick looks at him in earnest, his dark eyes filled with worry. “You’re too vulnerable.”

It’s a sweet sentiment. But it’s still that: sentiment. Billy is no human weapon, but he has a handle on his own fear, and he’s relying on Rick to have a handle on his.

He smiles gently. “But I’m not alone,” he reminds Rick, winking. He takes another puff, looking away again. “And that’s what counts.”

-o-

On his back, Billy’s not dead.

He stares at the ceiling until Rick comes into view. The younger operative looks strained and panicked, features creased with worry, and though his lips are moving, Billy can’t hear him.

Not with pain burning through his skull.

He can only stare, watching as Rick keeps talking and reaches out, touching Billy on the side of the face.

And Billy jolts. He shudders, his ears popping and his awareness ratcheting up.

Rick curses. “Careful,” he reprimands. “You’ve been shot.”

Billy tries to understand this. The pain makes sense, then. But... “In the head?”

Rick’s grim expression is answer enough. “I don’t think it broke the bone, but--”

Billy’s breath catches on a sob, and he starts to tremble. The tears are there without his consent and suddenly, breathing feels very tenuous.

Billy’s panicking.

But now Rick isn’t.

Instead, he’s reaching down, helping Billy up. The world tilts violently, and Billy nearly passes out, but Rick doesn’t let go. He hoists him up, supporting Billy’s larger frame even as he sways drunkenly, head dangling forward as blood starts to run into his eye.

“You ready?” Rick asks.

Billy whimpers, and wants to say no. He wants to lay down, to curl up, to die already.

Rick jostles him. “Hey, Billy, come on,” he says. “I’m not leaving you. Not alone.”

The words register, and they mean something, even if Billy hates it. He breathes raggedly and finally looks up, trying to smile at Rick.

His smile fades, though, when he sees the man with the gun. Bielski. He’s listing to the side, but his aim is steady enough for one last shot.

Billy’s frozen.

It’s Billy’s turn.

The gunshot splits the air, and Billy doesn’t fight it.

He doesn’t have to, because Rick turns him hard, stepping in front of him and letting go. Billy’s falling and Rick’s moving forward, charging the man with one last surge.

And everyone hits the ground.

-o-

Billy’s awake and alert for Rick’s second surgery. The infection makes Rick a poor candidate, but he can’t suffer any more blood loss. It’s a proverbial rock and a hard place, and they’re running out of ways to save Rick’s life.

They’re running out of ways.

Michael and Casey wait in Billy’s room. Michael doesn’t make any pretenses at small talk; the fact that Casey hasn’t punched a hole through the wall is about the most that can be expected from him.

Billy waits with the stitches healing in his head. He’s going to be fine; he’s going to be fine.

The minutes tick by, and nothing’s fine at all.

-o-

“Adrian Bielski,” Michael announces, putting the photo on the table. “One of Europe’s most notorious criminals. He’s got links to al-Qaeda and the Russian mob.”

“Sounds lovely,” Casey says icily, looking at the photo in disdain. “What does that have to do with us?”

Michael sits back, shrugging. “Nothing, I guess,” he says. “Except that they just recently picked up a new buyer in the Middle East.”

Billy squints at the picture, trying to take note of the man.

Rick is leaned over, scrutinizing the photo carefully. “Wait, is Bielski the new supplier for the Taliban?”

Michael grins. “Score one for the rookie.”

Rick scowls. “I’m not the new guy anymore.”

Billy reaches out to tousle his hair. “You’ll always be the new guy to us.”

Rick rolls his eyes, swatting Billy away. “Seriously, though,” he says. “If Bielski’s the guy, the cash he’s invested has given the Taliban a new wave of energy.”

“Exactly,” Michael says. “So the theory is, if we can neutralize Bielski--”

“We can take the wind out of the Taliban’s sails,” Casey concludes. “Sounds easy enough, but do we have a plan?”

“We have a lead with a local supplier for Bielski’s drug operation,” Michael explains. “I think we flipped an asset enough to get us an in.”

“That sounds dangerous,” Rick says.

“Especially since I can only get one cover,” Michael says. “Whoever is going, is going alone.”

“Ah,” Billy says, sitting up this time. “So we need someone who is smooth, dashing, has unparalleled business sense and international appeal?” He grins. “This is all mine.”

“Are we really sure it’s a good idea?” Rick asks.

“The kid could be right,” Casey concedes. “With all the crap that comes out of Billy’s mouth, he’s bound to say something to tip off Bielski.”

Billy makes a face of mock indignation. “My covers are always flawless,” he says. “When I commit to a part, it is without any reservations.” Then he slouches, shrugging. “Besides, I reckon it’s my turn after Rick and Casey did their stint in Africa last month.”

“That was a bad mission,” Rick agrees.

“Especially since Billy spent most of it sleeping,” Casey says resentfully.

Michael laughs. “Okay,” he says. “Billy it is.”

-o-

Rick’s alive.

That’s what the doctor leads off with after the surgery. Rick’s alive.

The surgery was difficult. Rick’s vital were all over the place, and he crashed twice on the table. They think they contained the bleeding this time, but only time will tell. At this point, it’s not the bleeding that is problematic. The infection is taking hold; he’s getting worse.

But Rick’s alive.

That’s supposed to be enough.

-o-

Billy’s awareness tips and fades, lost as the pain ebbs and flows. He’s vaguely aware that he’s moving, though he’s pretty sure he’s not the one in control of that. He tries to open his eyes, but his vision is blurred and there seems to be something in front of his face.

The movement jars him and pain flares before everything goes black.

He wakes again to the sound of muttering. “Come on, come on, come on,” the voice says, then curses in Spanish. “Yeah, hey! Where are you guys? I’ve got Billy...we need an extraction...”

Billy closes his eyes.

When he opens them, he’s not moving any more. He’s propped up in Casey’s lap, something hard pressed against his head. Michael grins at him. “You almost blew it.”

Billy takes a guarded breath, eyes flitting from Michael to Casey and then up to Rick. The youngest member of the team is standing. His face is pinched and pale, his weight shifted unevenly. “You saved me,” he breathes.

“Yeah, carried you ass forward the whole way out,” Casey remarks cheekily.

“Took out Bielski and his goons,” Michael adds. “Saved the mission single-handedly.”

Billy is gaping for air, eyes still locked on Rick. There’s something he needs to remember, between the beating and the first gunshot and the second. “But...”

“I wasn’t going to leave you alone,” Rick says, the words short and halting. He takes a breath, seems to shudder. “My turn after all.”

And then his body goes limp, collapsing to the ground.

Michael is up in an instant, but he’s not quite fast enough. Instead, he goes to his knees, rolling Martinez over. Billy struggles in Casey’s grasp, trying to sit up, trying to see.

Michael frowns, and then he pulls open the kid’s jacket.

Blood.

The second shot.

Rick took the second shot when he charged Bielski. He ran through the compound carrying Billy while he bled.

My turn after all.

-o-

Billy’s losing track of things. Sometimes, when he wakes up, he doesn’t remember sleeping, and he’s ready to go back undercover when he realizes he’s in the hospital. It’s the beginning and it’s the end, and he’s undercover and he’s out of cover, and Billy’s just not always sure between the aching of his head and his healing ribs -- he’s just not sure. He’s been shot, and he’s recovering from surgery -- there’s peach fuzz on the bald spot, now -- and thinks maybe he’s still a kid in MI6, wanting to prove he can do it after all.

But then he’s a kid at home, nursing a black eye after a fight. His father comes home late and drinks hard all weekend, and Billy sneaks out the window and causes trouble throughout town. He’s new to the States, he’s new to the team; he’s on his knees, he’s being carried, he’s been shot.

Hematoma, Billy remembers. But then the doctors ask him questions he can’t remember the answers to, but he never forgets Rick.

He never forgets.

He stays with Rick all the time now, passing out in the chair and sleeping with his head tipped back against the wall. The nurses are wary of him, and prod him in Polish, and when they try to remove him by force, he all but throws a fit right there in Rick’s room.

There’s mention of security, but Michael and Casey show up instead.

“You’re starting to worry the doctors,” Michael ventures, glancing cautiously at the door.

“It’s pretty stupid, even for you,” Casey adds.

Billy’s still looking at Rick. He’s wasting away, smaller every time Billy looks at him. He’s afraid the next time he looks away, Rick won’t be there at all.

“You’re starting to worry us,” Michael amends, more emphatic now. “Billy, you need to take care of yourself.”

It sounds reasonable. Really, it sounds desperate. Michael is worried.

Billy shakes his head, stomach turning as his head spins. “I should have taken care of myself back with Bielski,” he says. “I didn’t, and so Rick had to. And now here we are.”

“Mistakes happen,” Michael says.

“Even to the best of us,” Casey says.

Billy grits his teeth and fresh pain flares in his skull. He shakes his head. “And especially to the worst,” he murmurs.

Michael sighs. “Billy, Rick’s resting--”

“It should be me,” he interjects, eyes blurring as he tries to see the rise and fall of Rick’s chest. “I should be the one in that bed. He doesn’t deserve to die.”

“And you do?” Michael asks. “Come on--”

He reaches out, a hand on Billy’s arm. The touch is gentle but firm, and Billy recoils.

He feels the back of his father’s palm, Rick’s hands stemming his blood. The doctors, the nurses, everything--

He remembers.

I wasn’t going to leave you alone.

Billy panics, fumbling back. The chair scrapes and then it tips, and he loses his balance. Everything sways and someone is yelling as the darkness comes and Billy lets go.

-o-

He comes to in an ambulance with someone pressing on his head. Billy’s eyes settle on the medic, who looks at him calmly.

“Can you tell me your name?” she asks.

Billy stares at her.

“Do you remember what happened?”

Billy tries, but the details are elusive. The snatches are out of order and hard to make sense of. He thinks about Bielski and his cover; about Michael and his doubts. He thinks about Rick’s reassurances, the gun aimed at his head.

Rick saved his life.

He remembers the blood.

“Sir, can you hear me?”

-o-

It starts on Billy’s fifth mission with the Agency. The first two were disasters; the third was a fiasco; the fourth will never be spoken of again. But the fifth--

They’re in the cargo hold of a ship, huddled together as the wind whistles through the rusting metal. They’re going to Cuba, to catch a smuggler or a terrorist or someone, Billy can’t remember.

But he remembers the file.

It’s sealed shut when Michael pulls it out of his pack, somehow still pristine despite their travel conditions. He hands it to Billy solemnly and tells him to read.

Casey purses his lips; Carson rolls his eyes. Michael watches as Billy opens the file and pulls out the letter.

We are the nation’s first line of defense.

It’s a fake, of course, even if the sentiment is true. Billy’s into theatrics, and he likes grand gestures, so it’s enough to talk him into something stupid. Billy’s willing to play the hero, after all, but he’s never been a martyr. When things get bad, Billy knows when to cut and run. He survives, even when he doesn’t deserve it. Even when other people die. Even when he doesn’t want to at all.

He survived the fifth mission.

He’s living still.

It’s my turn.

-o-

Something’s happened.

Actually, a lot of things have happened. Billy’s just starting to understand it all for what seems like the first time. But as he’s sorting through the details, Michael’s voice interrupts his thoughts.

“You back?”

Billy turns his head, just a little, and still has to wince. “Did I go somewhere?”

Michael snorts. “Mostly just to MRI,” he comments wryly. “They were worried you stroked out or something back there.”

Billy considers this. And then stops. “Martinez?”

At that, Michael rolls his eyes. “Funny,” he says. “All the years I’ve known you, I never pegged you for a martyr.”

“It’s my turn,” Billy replies automatically. “No one else should die for me.”

“None of us should die at all,” Michael corrects. “Your cover was blown; Rick saved your life. He nearly died doing it. You running around with a healing head wound doesn’t actually make anything better.”

“It’s my fault,” Billy says, almost choking on the words. “Rick...”

“Is doing better, by the way,” Michael interjects. “The doctors are all optimistic, which is more than they are for you if you don’t get it together--”

Billy shakes his head. “Wait, he’s...?”

“Better,” Michael concedes. “Fever went down -- they think they’ve finally got a hold on the infection.”

Billy finds himself gaping. “But how long was I out?”

“Long enough,” Michael says, more than a hint of weariness in his voice.

Billy stares a moment longer, then laughs. “I need to see him.”

Michael rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah,” he mutters. “Somehow I figured.”

-o-

When it’s over, Billy’s beaten. Bielski has two goons lift Billy up, sitting him on his knees. Bielski’s smile is cold as he walks closer. “I hope it was worth it,” he says in heavy English.

Billy squirms and tries to think of something to say. This is it, though. Billy’s got nothing left -- just the distant promise of backup and the knowledge that Rick has never let him down.

Billy dares to hope.

Bielski inclines his head, eyes gleaming. “And so it ends.”

He raises the gun.

-o-

It takes a few days before Rick is fully conscious. That’s probably for the best since it’s a few days before Billy can sit up without unceremoniously passing out. When he finally makes it to Rick’s bedside, this time he goes by wheelchair, and he imagines he doesn’t look much better than Rick, who’s still hooked up to the monitors.

That’s saying something, too. Rick’s still pale and too thin, the stubble on his face overgrown, making him look tired and worn. He smiles when he sees Billy, but the dark circles under his eyes are pronounced and the simple turn of his mouth looks like enough to put him back to sleep again.

“Hey,” Rick says. The word is hoarse and light, but the warmth in his eyes is warm.

Billy wets his lips. “Hey.”

“I’m glad you’re okay,” Rick continues.

Billy laughs at that, a short bark that is nearly ripped out of his chest and leaves his eyes burning. “You’ve been in septic shock.”

Rick shrugs. “You were shot in the head.”

“It was my own fault,” Billy replies, his gaze dropping down. When he looks up again, it’s all he can do to meet Rick’s eyes. “I’m sorry.”

Rick’s brow furrows. “For what?”

“For everything,” Billy says, trying to find the words. “I didn’t think about the risks for anyone else. I took it for granted, and you nearly died for it. If anyone should be in that bed, it should be me.”

Rick quirks an eyebrow. “You are still in a wheelchair, in case you’ve forgotten.”

It’s a joke, of course. Rick’s been with the ODS too long now; he knows how they work.

But not this time. Billy sighs raggedly. “I saw what you did,” he says. “You overtook three men to save me. You charged Bielski and carried me out while shot. You risked your life for mine.” Billy’s voice cuts off and he has to swallow desperately. “And I’m not worth it. And for that, I’m sorry.”

“Billy,” Rick says, seriously now. “The only thing I’ve thought about since I woke up is you. Making sure you were okay. Because I saw what you did, too. You went undercover on a mission most operatives wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. You put yourself out there with virtually no backup for the greater good. I risked my life because you’d risked yours from the beginning. So I’m not looking for an apology.”

It’s more than forgiveness; it’s not even simple absolution. It’s a radical understanding, a sudden clarity that’s eluded him since this started. It’s not about better or worse or whose turn it is. It’s about what teams do. It’s taken Billy years to figure that out, years to live by it, years to die by it, but maybe now he understands.

Maybe now.

His eyes are wet, but he forces a smile. “How about a humble thanks instead?”

Rick’s smile widens. “I think I can live with that.”

Billy grins back. “It’s a place to start anyway.”

-o-

In the end, Billy’s still a little fuzzy on the details. The bits and pieces come to him in strange snatches, lingering like almost-forgotten dreams in the back of his consciousness. Sometimes he remembers disparate moments, echoes in his brain. He’ll wake with his heart stuttering and his head pounding, fingers clenched in fear even though he doesn’t know why. If he stands too quickly, he’s back at the beginning, back at MI6, standing in a graveyard in Scotland.

It doesn’t all make sense, but maybe that’s for the best. He’s not sure what exactly he did wrong with Bielski, but he still knows enough of the story to help Michael mull through their makeshift intel. He says they blew the mission, but they still got a little of what they needed, so not all is lost. If Billy can come up with a few critical details, maybe ID a few people, then Higgins might not rake them across the coals too badly.

As it is, the doctors say he will probably remember the rest someday, perhaps even sooner rather than later. There are still gaps, after all; he doesn’t know what happened when necessarily or how he got from point A to point B. He’s sure that if he takes Michael out for a beer when they get back, they can put the events in order.

Really, though, Billy finds it doesn’t matter. Sure, he dislikes the ambiguity. And yes, it’d be nice to have a stronger case to pitch to Higgins. He’d prefer a little certainty for his own piece of mind, no doubt, but ultimately, the story stays the same. The details may change; perception may alter the interpretation a bit, but the ending is what matters.

They’re going home, after all. Michael and Casey and Rick and Billy. They’re alive; they’re together; they’re okay.

Billy figures the rest will sort itself out later.

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: March 26th, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
AH, lovely as always

This had the best combination of Billy h/c, Rick h/c and Billy angst/guilt. I love how you tied things together and that Billy has such a low opinion of his worth, believing that no one should lose their life to save his. Then Rick turns the tables and shows Billy that he does heroic and sacrificial things as well and that Rick is just returning the favor. Just AWESOME!

Fave Part:

“It was my own fault,” Billy replies, his gaze dropping down. When he looks up again, it’s all he can do to meet Rick’s eyes. “I’m sorry.”

Rick’s brow furrows. “For what?”

“For everything,” Billy says, trying to find the words. “I didn’t think about the risks for anyone else. I took it for granted, and you nearly died for it. If anyone should be in that bed, it should be me.”

Rick quirks an eyebrow. “You are still in a wheelchair, in case you’ve forgotten.”

It’s a joke, of course. Rick’s been with the ODS too long now; he knows how they work.

But not this time. Billy sighs raggedly. “I saw what you did,” he says. “You overtook three men to save me. You charged Bielski and carried me out while shot. You risked your life for mine.” Billy’s voice cuts off and he has to swallow desperately. “And I’m not worth it. And for that, I’m sorry.”

“Billy,” Rick says, seriously now. “The only thing I’ve thought about since I woke up is you. Making sure you were okay. Because I saw what you did, too. You went undercover on a mission most operatives wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. You put yourself out there with virtually no backup for the greater good. I risked my life because you’d risked yours from the beginning. So I’m not looking for an apology.”

--This exchange just says it all about their friendship.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 31st, 2013 03:03 am (UTC)
Re: AH, lovely as always
billy casey trouble

It was a fun twist to make Billy feel so guilty and to make Rick the total wounded hero -- not something I want to do every time, mind you, but a little variety works :)

Thanks!

Posted by: fara (farad)
Posted at: March 28th, 2013 08:47 pm (UTC)
Martin - sex

Nicely done - I love the way you put the story together, piecing the details of what happened through the recovery. Well-crafted. Nice characterizations as always and lovely view of Billy's history!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 31st, 2013 03:04 am (UTC)
billy knows

I'm relieved it makes sense! One thing I've loved about writing so much Chaos fic is that I've really solidified my head canon for Billy (and for the others to some extent).

Thanks!

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