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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: Barely a Vapor (1/1)

June 14th, 2013 (07:34 am)
aggravated

feeling: aggravated

Title: Barely a Vapor

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

Warnings: Major character death

A/N: For sophie_deangirl on her birthday. With thanks to lena7142 for the inspiration and the beta.

Summary: Some lessons, Rick knows, have to be learned the hard way.



-o-

Rick visits Scotland every year. Over time, he comes to appreciate the country for its rugged beauty and eclectic quirks. He stands on Calton Hill. He walks through North Edinburgh.

And across the moors he takes in the vast landscape and looks for signs of hope.

At first, they’re hard to find, but over the years Rick sees them. A blooming flower; a tall tree; a clear blue sky with the clouds held at bay.

It’s there, Rick knows. It’s been there all along.

It just takes time to see it.

Rick goes back home, and he regrets many things, but he doesn’t regret that.

-o-

Over the years, the ODS changes. Rick’s not the new guy anymore; he’s an equal player. He finds his voice; he finds his place. As a group, they find a balance that makes them effective and useful. It’s an understated bond that most people don’t understand, but Rick knows they don’t have to. He didn’t, not when he first joined.

Not for a long time.

But now that it’s there, it’s something he can’t explain, but Michael and Casey need no explanation.

And Billy’s the one who taught it to him in the first place.

Some lessons, Rick knows, have to be learned the hard way.

-o-

The first time Rick stands on the highlands, the pain is still fresh. He feels gutted and weak, but this is something he has to do.

The others have offered to come, but this is something Rick needs to do alone. Alone, he stands, looking out across the moors. There are sheep grazing in the distance, and the sky is vivid with angry clouds collecting in the distance. The cold wind whips about him, brusque and merciless, stinging his eyes until the tears finally fall.

The urn is simple in his hands, but his fingers are numb as they unscrew it. The wind catches it immediately, taking the ash before Rick is ready and spilling it across the land. It twirls, caught up in a whirlwind before it disperses and disappears into the endless gray.

“I’m sorry,” Rick says, but his voice is also lost to the wind, and it’s not enough.

God help him, it isn’t enough.

-o-

The CIA doesn’t comment on Billy’s death, and the mood is somber when his star is added anonymously to the wall. He doesn’t get a gravestone; his death barely makes notice in the obituary of the local newspaper. There’s no picture, just his name and a mention of his age and date of death. It says that he died while traveling overseas.

That’s true, of course.

But that’s not the whole story.

-o-

Michael takes it badly, and he micromanages every detail as they arrange for the trip back home. He’s on the phone endlessly, harassing Langley for extra accommodations or demanding extra services to ensure no problems in bringing Billy back. He almost goes down to the morgue to make sure that Billy’s cremation is done properly, but Rick talks him out of it. “I need you,” he tells Michael. “Casey needs you.”

It’s not enough, Rick knows; but it’s something.

-o-

Casey doesn’t take it at all. He’s the one who did CPR until he was shaking and nearly unconscious. He’s the one who had Billy’s blood smeared all over him. He’s the one who pounded Billy’s chest until every rib was broken and Billy’s sightless eyes were horrifyingly dim.

He rages and flails, but when Rick finally pulls him off, he goes very, very still. He stares at Billy for a long moment, and then he walks away.

Rick hasn’t seen him look back since.

-o-

Rick’s never appreciated it before, just how finely tuned his team is. Before he came, they’d been a perfectly balanced trio. They’d needed each other, natural complements, unlikely harmonies that somehow made a perfect melody.

With Billy gone, everything’s gone -- the balance, the harmony, all of it. They all still do what they can, but nothing works the way it should.

Nothing is the same.

And nothing ever will be again.

-o-

Michael blames himself. Casey does, too.

The thing is, though -- it’s Rick’s fault.

(God help him, please.)

-o-

Rick doesn’t know what Billy believes, and he’s not sure if the other man had a will or not. But in the morgue, Rick stands over Billy’s cold body, laid out on the slab. His features are pale and blue, and he’s covered with a sheet, his feet sticking out the bottom, the little tag on his toe.

It’s so cliche that it might be funny. If Billy were alive, he’d make jokes.

As it is, it’s just cruel.

Rick came to apologize. He came to make amends. He came to promise Billy that his sacrifice wouldn’t be in vain.

But as he stands there, no words come. The words were always Billy’s thing, and without him, there’s only silence.

Deafening, encompassing silence.

And Rick cries.

-o-

Rick gives up first.

Casey holds out for nearly a half hour in sheer denial and desperation. Michael refuses to believe it for nearly fifteen minutes.

But Rick knows.

He knows the second the life leaves Billy’s body, the second his eyes go vacant and dim. He feels the last beat of Billy’s heart, the last exhale of warm breath. He hears the last words, “It’s okay” -- a whisper of a promise, a hint of hope in a cruel, dying world.

Rick knows it’s over.

He knows everything has changed.

He knows nothing will ever be okay again.

Because Billy’s dead.

-o-

It’s not an easy death. The bullet has torn through Billy’s chest, ripping a gaping hole that leaves Billy breathless and gasping. He writhes as Rick picks him up, and when Rick puts his hand to the wound, the blood just keeps flowing and Rick doesn’t know what to do.

“Oh, God,” he says, blinking rapidly as he tries to think. “God, Billy. We have to -- um -- just hold on -- we’ll get you out of here.”

But then, Billy’s eyes lock on his and Rick stops.

Everything stops.

Billy’s mouth twitches upward into a smile. “It’s over, son,” he says haltingly. He breathes in heavily and spits up blood.

Rick shakes his head in denial. “No, Michael and Casey--”

“Tell them it’s okay,” Billy says, and he’s panting now, breathing in short jerky motions. “Tell them I’m okay.”

“Billy, no--” Rick says, begging now.

But Billy forces air in and out, even as Rick feels the wheezes through the hole in his chest. “I have regrets,” he says, and he shudders strongly, and it’s an obvious effort to keep himself conscious. He shakes his head. “But not about this.”

Rick is crying now. He shakes his head. “Billy....”

Billy’s eyes grow desperate, his breathing almost entirely in vain now. “I’m not a good man, but this--” he says raggedly, the words almost inaudible now. “This is a good death.”

“Billy,” Rick says, trying to find the words, trying to find something. Anything.

“No regrets, lad,” he says, even as his eyes start to grow vacant, as the tension leaves his body. “This is the right balance, I think. And I’m not afraid.”

There are a few more halting breaths, a few more vacant promises, once last glimpse of hope -- and Billy dies.

Billy dies.

-o-

The gunshot is meant for Rick.

In a firefight, Rick’s still the new guy, and he’s lashing out in so many directions that he doesn’t remember to watch his flank. Or maybe he just knows his team has his back.

He assumes.

Still, when he hears the shot, the hair stands up on the back of his neck. He finds himself bracing, turning when the impact never comes.

Instead, Billy is standing there facing him. His eyes are wide, his mouth is open.

Then he looks down and sees the red patch spreading across Billy’s shirt before he hits the ground.

-o-

Rick doesn’t know how it goes wrong. He doesn’t know what tipped the bad guys off. He doesn’t know who fired first.

He just knows in the middle of the firefight, all he can think about is the things he hasn’t done. He thinks about how he needs to call his mother, about how he needs to tell Adele he loves her. He needs to tell his brother that he forgives him for taking his fiance and tell his fiance that he’s happy she’s happy.

He has things to do, amends to make. He has too many things he wants to fix.

He can’t die.

Not yet.

Not now.

And then he hears the gunshot.

-o-

“Are we sure about this?” Rick asks when they start the op.

“Of course not,” Casey snorts. “These people are heavily armed idiots. They’re far too trigger happy to be trusted.”

“It’s a risk I think we have to take, though,” Michael says. “We just have to be extra vigilant.”

Billy chuckles. “You can only plan for so much,” he says. Then he winks at Rick. “Sometimes you just have to go for it, aye?”

-o-

When Rick joins the CIA, he has big plans that don’t pan out. He has grand ideas that never come to fruition. Michael’s a control freak; Casey’s downright scary. Billy looks apologetic and admits, “I say a lot of things I don’t mean.”

And this is his team.

And this is his career.

Rick thinks he must be in the wrong place sometimes, but this is where it starts. It’s not the best start, but he thinks to himself, that doesn’t mean it’ll end poorly.

It could end anywhere.

Despite everything, Rick sort of can’t wait to find out.

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: June 14th, 2013 01:33 pm (UTC)

OH MY GOSH!!!!!!! What a WONDERFUL gift!!!!!! Thank you!!! Not enough exclamation points in the world can express my glee at seeing this alert and then reading the story!!!

It's just BREATHTAKINGLY MOVING!!! I love all the expositions from Rick's point of view! As an accepted team member then as a mourning friend taking Billy's ashes back home as well as making annual visits. It makes perfect sense. Your POVs of Michael and Casey and how each takes the loss just crushed me with emotion! And you gave me the best death scene!!!

Thank you SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!


Fave parts:

With Billy gone, everything’s gone -- the balance, the harmony, all of it. They all still do what they can, but nothing works the way it should.

Nothing is the same.

And nothing ever will be again.

-- you feel the ache here!

Michael blames himself. Casey does, too.

The thing is, though -- it’s Rick’s fault.

(God help him, please.)

--sigh! Amp up the angst! YES! I'm just terrible!

Rick doesn’t know what Billy believes, and he’s not sure if the other man had a will or not. But in the morgue, Rick stands over Billy’s cold body, laid out on the slab. His features are pale and blue, and he’s covered with a sheet, his feet sticking out the bottom, the little tag on his toe.

It’s so cliche that it might be funny. If Billy were alive, he’d make jokes.

--*feels faint! Wow, this whole scene gave me chills! Envisioning Billy this way is palpably painful and unimaginable!

It’s not an easy death. The bullet has torn through Billy’s chest, ripping a gaping hole that leaves Billy breathless and gasping. He writhes as Rick picks him up, and when Rick puts his hand to the wound, the blood just keeps flowing and Rick doesn’t know what to do.

--OH! You're just too good to me!!!


Billy’s eyes grow desperate, his breathing almost entirely in vain now. “I’m not a good man, but this--” he says raggedly, the words almost inaudible now. “This is a good death.”

-- OH! You gave me a death scene that just made me WEEP! I'm totally serious!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 20th, 2013 11:34 am (UTC)
billy considers

I hope you had a great birthday! I know how difficult this school year was, so I'm hoping this summer you have some time to rest, recuperate and maybe even write :)

Thanks!

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: June 14th, 2013 06:14 pm (UTC)
Observer

Breathtakingly beautiful.

And the reverse order makes it even more intense.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 20th, 2013 11:35 am (UTC)
billy approves

Thank you! I have to admit, I liked writing it in reverse order :)

(And I hope new job is still going well! Any VS progress?)

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: June 21st, 2013 08:12 pm (UTC)

You're welcome :)

(The new job is going very well, thanks. It's also keeping me nicely busy and the past weeks just flew by. And as usual the writing is going slow. But I'm adding sentence after sentence)

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