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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: The Elephant in the Room (4/7)

September 23rd, 2013 (05:59 am)
sick

feeling: sick

Notes in the MASTER POST.



PART FOUR

Consciousness doesn’t quite leave him, but everything goes fuzzy and dark, and Rick is aware that time is passing, but he doesn’t quite know what to do about it. More than that, he doesn’t think he can do anything about it because his head doesn’t feel quite connected to his body.

It is, though. Which is why it hurts.

He squeezes his eyes shut, suddenly aware of the throbbing in his head, pounding in time to the rhythm of his heart.

Groaning, he forces his head up from where it’s slumped on the steering wheel. The small movement sends fiery pain through his neck, and when he finally opens his eyes, everything seems out of focus.

He blinks a few more times until it all seems to settle, and he sits up the rest of the way, swallowing hard against the nausea in his stomach. From this position, Rick can see through the cracked windshield -- not that there’s much to see. The view is nothing but tree trunks and foliage, which doesn’t bode well for their predicament.

Fumbling, he reaches for his seatbelt, absently wiping away at the blood that’s trickling down the side of his face. He winces as he loosens the belt, reaching with a shaky hand to the door. “Billy?” he calls. “You okay back there?”

He doesn’t expect a response -- the Scot had been unconscious before this all started -- but the question is pressing at the back of his mind.

“Billy?”

The door sticks, and Rick jiggles it. With a grunt of frustration, he slams himself into it, jarring his head and nearly turning his stomach. The effort is worthwhile, though, and the door swings open, hanging wildly on its hinges, as Rick stumbles out into the rainforest.

His knees threaten to give way, and he has to brace himself against the car, trying desperately to get his vision to stop spinning again. It takes a few moments before he’s steady, and when he looks up, he suddenly feels lucky.

The car is in shambles. The front end is crumpled like an accordion, disfigured and clearly totalled. Given the sounds the car had made before the steering had given out, he hadn’t been too hopeful about its condition, but after the crash, it’s pretty clear the car’s not going anywhere.

So much for returning it when he was done.

Still, given the damage, Rick knows that it’s fortunate that he hasn’t incurred more serious injuries. Yes, his head hurts but everything else seems in working order. There’s no way to tell just yet about internal injuries, but the pain is diffuse, so he’s feeling optimistic.

Until he looks in the back and sees Billy, hanging off the edge of the seat, flushed faced turned toward Rick, looking more dead than alive.

-o-

Rick thinks he’ll run out of adrenaline sooner or later on this job. He figures at some point, all this peril will become commonplace. Someday, he’ll face these kinds of situations with grit and tenacity, no questions asked.

Someday, maybe.

Not today.

Rick’s adrenaline is surging again, this time in fear. The throbbing in his skull only exacerbates the problem, and he’s practically hysterical as he flails to open the rear door.

It takes some effort, but when it pops open, it’s Rick’s sheer force that makes him stumble. He lands hard on the forest floor, jarring his senses, and when he gets woodenly back to his feet, he feels marginally less unhinged.

Even so, the fear is hard to contain as he sidles alongside the recumbent Scotsman.

The seatbelt has done its job, but with Billy laid across the seat, there was only so much it could do. Billy’s upper body has been thrown forward by the force of impact, and now he’s precariously positioned on the bench, barely held in place by the belt secured awkwardly across his hips.

The effect may have spared Billy from further injuries -- he can hope, anyway -- but the sprawled position makes him look strangely like a ragdoll, and Billy’s total helplessness is more than a little unnerving.

With a steadying breath, Rick squeezes farther in, gently lifting Billy back against the seat. “Billy,” he says, tilting Billy’s face carefully toward him as he tries not to think about whiplash or any other such injuries. “Billy?”

Billy’s face creases in what looks like pain, and a faint whimper escapes his lips. When there’s no other reply, Rick moves his trembling fingers to the seatbelt, unlatching it and retracting it out of the way.

When that’s done, he runs a hand over Billy’s brow, refusing to flinch at the swelling heat. Chest tight, he forces himself to breathe as he reaches down again, lifting Billy’s loose sleep shirt to check for further damage.

Even with the gathering night, Rick can tell the bandage is red.

Rick freezes, too terrified to move. The bandage is red -- not soaked, but clearly bloody. It had mostly stopped bleeding at Jonah’s safe house; it’d been seeping pus, but the bleeding had been minimal. It had been about the only thing working in Billy’s favor.

Now they don’t even have that. The force of the impact has aggravated Billy’s wound. The infection is still strong, and now there’s blood loss to contend with as well. Even if Rick gets it under control quickly, he’s not sure Billy can endure another complication.

Sitting back on his heels, Rick realizes this is more than another complication. This isn’t just a reopened wound. This is being stranded in the middle of the Cambodian rainforest with no viable means of transportation. With no backup.

Probably with angry gunmen looking for them.

Billy may not survive this complication -- and Rick realizes with sudden clarity that he might not either.

-o-

Suddenly, Rick wants to panic.

It’s not an uncommon feeling for him, really. During his time with the ODS, he’s been struck with such an overwhelming sensation more than once. When he’d realized he’d just jumped in a car with a Russian spy. When he’d been on his knees with a man wielding a knife. When he woke up and found himself captured by terrorists. When Casey had run off in the desert and left him to die.

Panic.

It’s actually a good sensation, because it pushes you to action. Make it or break it.

Rick’s made it every other time.

He can do it again.

He has to.

Pushing the panic aside, he reassess their situation. It’s not good, that much is certain, but Rick is aware that it could, in fact, be worse. The car is actually fairly well secured -- the crash took them off the road and well into the brush, which may obscure them from any passing vehicles. A thorough search of the forest wouldn’t hide them, but they’re not in the open, which prevents them from being sitting ducks.

Plus, the car may be totaled, but it’s relatively safe shelter. Rick’s not entirely sure what may be out in the jungle at night, but he’s fairly certain he doesn’t want to find out the hard way. The crash disabled the car but it doesn’t seem to be in danger of exploding or catching fire, which means that Rick can use it as a temporary hideout until morning breaks.

He still has supplies, so he can tend to Billy’s wound. And he still has the phone.

The phone.

Michael and Casey’s cover is tenuous -- calling them is out. But maybe he can call Langley. He’s not sure what they can do remotely, but there’s a chance.

With renewed vigor, Rick reaches over, snagging the pack from where it’d been stowed on the floor. The idea of hope is almost intoxicating, and he eagerly powers up the phone.

Just for it to flash No signal.

Maybe from the road, he’d have a signal. Maybe back at Jonah’s house. Maybe anywhere but here.

Rick’s eyes flit back to Billy. Here’s all he’s got. Moving in the night with Billy...

It’d be suicide.

He sighs, reigning in the gnawing fear that staying out the night may suicide, too.

-o-

The situation is bleak, but Rick’s not one to dwell on the gloomy details. Rick perseveres over obstacles. Rick prevails when others give up. Rick takes a problem and makes a solution. He’s a self-starter, a go-getter. He was top of his class, best of the best all through high school, college, CIA training. Hell, Rick was even an Eagle Scout.

If anyone can do this, it’s Rick.

Stranded in the rainforest with an injured teammate, it may not seem like there’s much to be done, but Rick is quick to get to work.

He starts by securing the car, as best he can. He makes a quick sweep of the forest and does his best to disguise the trail. It’s not perfect, but in the dark, he figures they’re mostly secluded.

With that settled, Rick settles in the car. It’s a hard fit, but he shoves the front seats as far up as he can in order to make a nest for himself. The forest is too dark to see much, but he feels good being close to Billy and having a clear shot. The fact that his head is out of the line of fire is a nice perk, too.

He checks their guns next, and it’s all to be expected. He keeps one on him and stows the others nearby, keeping the bag so it’s pressed against his leg. Even in the dark, he knows right where it is.

Using an emergency flashlight -- because it’s pitch black now -- Rick checks on Billy again, and finds the Scot much the same. It’s hard to find a perch for the light, and even when he does, the illumination is sparse and inconsistent. In the haloed glow, he carefully peels away the soiled bandage, wincing as he looks at the wound again.

The bleeding seems to have slowed, and Rick uses one of the water bottles to soak a fresh piece of gauze to clear away the drying blood. When it’s clean, he peers closer, trying to see how much of the stained flesh is from the blood and how much is from the infection. Either way, the wound is still warm to the touch, and the foul smell can’t be a good sign.

Gently, he trickles water through the wound before using another piece of gauze to pad it properly before securing the bandage once more.

Then, he sits back again. Billy hasn’t moved, and now that Rick’s out of practical things to do, he’s reminded how helpless he is.

His eyes flit across Billy’s face.

He’s reminded how helpless Billy is.

With a shaky breath, he tries to smile. “We’ll just wait through the night,” he says, trying to sound conversation. He’s pretty sure he just sounds stupid. Unfortunately, Billy’s not exactly in a position to call him on it. He shrugs awkwardly. “It won’t be so bad.”

It’s a stupid promise because it’s probably a lie. And for the first time, Rick understands why maybe Billy says a lot of things he doesn’t mean.

Maybe it’s not because he’s a bastard (even if he is). Maybe it’s because he’s trying to protect Rick. Maybe he’ll ask Billy someday. When this is over.

Rick looks away guiltily.

He so wants this to be over.

-o-

At the CIA, Rick has rarely gotten what he wants. This is no different.

The night is slow -- almost painfully so. Wedged on the floor, Rick manages to sleep for a bit, but every sound in the jungle jars him awake and has him reaching for a gun. Even when he does doze off, he seems acutely aware of the ticking seconds and how they never seem to end.

It’s the longest night of his life.

Especially because he’s not sure morning will be any better.

-o-

Rick startles.

He realizes immediately that he’s been asleep, and from the crick in his neck, it was a longer stretch than before. He shifts, igniting a deep ache through his back and he winces as he tries to rearrange his legs in the cramped space.

And then he hears the noise.

Just that fast, he’s on high alert. He lifts the gun, trying to prop himself up further to get a look out the windows--

Then he realizes the noise is closer than that.

His eyes widen.

“Billy?” he asks, shifting his weight forward and scrambling painfully to his knees.

On the seat, Billy stirs, his eyelid fluttering as his head rolls. In the early dawn, Billy’s complexion looks horribly and his hair is sweaty, sticking up at odder angles than usual.

“Hey, Billy,” Rick says again, unable to contain the smile of relief from crossing his face.

He’s even more relieved when Billy’s head rolls back toward him, his eyes struggling open and settling on Rick’s face.

“You’re missing all the fun,” Rick says, as easily as possible. “We even ran into that elephant again.”

Billy blinks owlishly, his breathing starting to pick up its pace. “Casey likes pink elephants,” he says. “I prefer green ones, myself, but any will really do.”

Billy’s tone is so serious, that at first, Rick doesn’t know what to say. Then, he chuckles. “Um, I know you like to mess with me, but that’s not even funny.”

Billy heaves now, shaking his head emphatically. “Then what about the walruses?”

It’s so weird that Rick doesn’t know any other response but to laugh.

But then, Billy’s forehead creases. “I can feel their tusks, stabbing me,” he says, almost whining now. He squeezes his eyes shut, whimpering. “It’s on fire.

Now Rick’s too numb to speak; he can barely breathe. Because Billy’s awake and he’s talking...

And he’s entirely incoherent.

“I know,” Rick says dumbly, because he can’t think of anything else. “Let me see about that, okay?”

It’s not clear if Billy hears him, but when Rick reaches down to lift his shirt, the Scotsman recoils, breaking off with a hiss and a sob as he flails.

“Easy,” Rick coaxes, gently but firmly moving Billy’s hands away. “Easy.”

Billy strains, his eyes slitting open as he looks, unseeing, at the ceiling.

“Easy,” Rick says again, softer now as he works at the bandage. It comes away, and Rick is prepared for the familiar, if unpleasant, sight of the infection wound. He’s used to puss and oozing; he’s used to swelling and redness.

But in the pale light, Rick can see immediately that something has changed. The wound is darker, and when Rick pokes closer, he can see the blackened point of a defined abscess.

Worse still, there are streaks of red, vibrant against Billy’s waxy skin, stretching out from the wound across Billy’s abdomen.

The infection has spread. It’s in his blood.

The morning has definitely gotten worse.

-o-

For a moment, Rick is all too aware of how little time has passed. The night has seemed interminably slow, but the fact is, it’s only been a few short days since they arrived in Cambodia. Rick hasn’t even been employed at the CIA for a month.

Yet, here he is. On his own with a totaled car and a wounded teammate in hostile territory.

This is the job he signed up for.

Only not at all.

Not that he doesn’t want to serve his country, but he always counted on having a clearer sense of what to do. Of having a perfectly defined mission with all the rights and wrongs understood and heeded. That was what he had trained for. That was what he’d been willing to die for.

But here, with Billy lapsing in and out of consciousness before him, nothing is that simple. This isn’t exactly the mission, and Rick doesn’t even know what he’ll do if he gets them out of here. He’s not sure if he’s making the right choice.

He just knows he’s making the only choice.

Swallowing, he nods. “Okay,” he says, his voice sounding far too loud and tinny in the car. He nods again. “Okay.”

Billy doesn’t reply, but Rick doesn’t expect him to. Instead, Rick hastily repacks the bag, holstering the loaded pistol at his side. When he feels adequately prepared, he opens the door and steps out into the rainforest.

Though it is secluded, Rick hardly feels alone. The trees titter and the insects buzz. He stands very still for a long moment, listening for any other distinguishing sounds. Men marching; guns cocking.

Elephants trampling.

There’s no sign of that, though, and Rick knows that can change pretty fast, but it’s something. At this point, Rick will take what he can get.

His gaze drifts back to Billy. It’s not like he has any other choice.

“Okay,” he says again, ducking back down and reaching toward Billy. It’s cumbersome work, but he grasps Billy under the arms, hefting him up and dragging him across the seat.

At the movement, Billy makes a noise, but Rick is too set on his task to stop now. When he gets Billy to the door, he pauses, shifting his footing and propping Billy against himself while he repositions himself to support the taller man’s weight.

Rick thinks he’s ready for it, but the unwieldy limbs are still formidable and Rick staggers, almost dropping Billy as he tries to get his body maneuvered correctly. It takes a moment, and Rick can feel sweat start to collect on his brow already. Still, he persists, and he finally manages to hoist Billy up and over his shoulder.

It’s not ideal, and Rick knows that. Not only is the Scotsman heavy, but Rick is too aware that he could be injuring Billy further. It could irritate the wound; it could make it bleed again.

It’s the only viable option, though. He can’t stay here; Billy will die. The Scot’s height makes the idea of carrying him any other way unfeasible. A fireman’s carry is simply the only option.

Gritting his teeth, Rick adjusts the figure over his shoulder, trying not to notice the strain on his shoulders or the hot, wet stain already seeping onto his back.

This is the way it has to be.

With Billy secure, Rick takes a brief second to orient himself. He just needs to find the road and start walking.

He just needs to get Billy out of here.

Now.

Rick takes his first step, and he doesn’t look back.

-o-

Over the years, Rick has turned himself into an acceptable athlete. He’s rarely the fastest or the strongest, but he can win at most things from pure determination alone. Usually, he just wants to win more than anyone else.

But what he has in tenacity, he lacks in skill. Which is why he almost always can win a sprint but has trouble in long distances. He can burst past anyone with a short, powered thrust of adrenaline. Sustaining that...

Is harder.

Even so, Rick’s no quitter, but he has to admit, he’s never had a task quite as hard as this one. It’s not just the abstract fears -- about getting caught, getting shot, getting killed -- it’s the simple physical strain.

He’s in the rainforest, after all. The heat is sweltering and the air is thick with moisture. Insect prickle his skin, and he’s drenched with sweat. And Casey was right about the leeches. It’s made worse since he isn’t running on the road. It’d still be hot on the pavement, but the terrain would be even and predictable. In order to maintain some semblance of stealth, Rick keeps himself off the path, cutting a path through the brush along the side of the road.

What he gains in stealth, however, is made up for in effort and discomfort. His feet catch on the uneven ground, and tree branches swat at his face. Once, a snake slithers away from him and Rick has no choice but to keep moving forward at the best clip he can manage.

None of this even gets started on the fact that he’s carrying Billy. The Scot has been utterly pliant, a dead weight hanging heavily on Rick’s taxed shoulders. What starts out as discomfort quickly becomes a nagging and pervasive ache that threatens to topple him with every lurching step he makes.

He starts out in a run, but slows to a jog. He doesn’t know how long he’s been going, but soon a stumbling, dogged walk is the best he can manage. One foot in front of the other. He can’t give up.

He won’t.

He’s made his choices; he’s going to see this through. Billy can’t die. Teammate, friend, relative stranger -- Billy can’t die. Not on Rick’s watch. He may not be protecting state secrets, but this is his singular mission all the same.

And Rick doesn’t quit.

-o-

His knees feel weak; his thighs burn. The pain in his shoulders runs down his back now, and the ache is so deep that Rick just feels numb. Breathing is a trial, the rough puffs of air grating in his lungs as he sucks in desperate and never feels satisfied.

It’s like running head on with a train. It’s like a marathon he refuses to lose. This is who Rick is; this is why he should be in the CIA. He does what needs to be done.

Casey’s a human weapon. Michael’s a brilliant planner. Billy’s a smooth talker.

Rick’s the kid who is too tenacious to walk away. They don’t think he belongs here, but he does.

God help him, he does.

He’ll prove it to them. He wanted to do it in the field, but this is just as important.

This is more important.

The train keeps coming; the finish line isn’t any closer.

Then, Rick’s foot catches on the ground and the sound of gunfire splits the air.

-o-

Whether it’s the shock of the gunfire or his foot tripping over a wayward branch, Rick loses his balance and can’t get it back. With Billy’s weight throwing off his center of gravity, Rick pitches forward and goes down hard, and there’s nothing Rick can do about it. He manages to get one hand up, deflecting a direct face plant, but the impact is still jarring.

The forces pushes the air out of his lungs, and for a moment, everything goes uncomfortably dim. He doesn’t lose consciousness, but he’s not sure how long it takes him before he gets his eyes to open.

At first, there’s not much to see. His face is smashed against the ground, and he has a good few of an ant hill. When a trail of the insects starts toward him, he startles, jerking upward just to realize that Billy’s half on top of him, crushing him.

He groans, shifting, trying both to roll himself into a better position and keep Billy somewhat stable. He’s almost managed to scoot out from under the other man when fresh gunfire erupts again, causing Rick to duck his head and bury his face back into the ground.

Eyes squeezed shut, he tries to remember to breathe. Curling up in a ball is nothing short of giving up, and Rick doesn’t quit.

Peeking his eyes open, he sees Billy, sprawled on his side, face blank and unknowing. He’s helpless.

Rick’s not.

He’s outmanned and outgunned and completely unprepared for a confrontation, but he’s not helpless.

Setting his jaw, Rick pulls his gun, waiting for a lull in the gunfire to bop up and fire off a few rounds. He doesn’t get many shots off before he sees movement across the way, and he counts four to five men before he dives for cover once more.

On the ground, this time he listens to the cadence of the gunfire. Four to five sounds about right. He glances up where the bullets are hitting the trees. The shooting is all from the same direction, too, which means there’s probably only one contingent.

For now, anyway.

Those aren’t great odds, but maybe it’s doable. Rick doesn’t know for sure; he’s never tested his limitations in this way. It is only his second mission after all, and he’d spent most of his time drugged and imprisoned on the first one.

So now is his time to shine.

Or die.

Either way.

With that thought prompting him, Rick jumps up, firing again before scrambling around, retreating back toward the trees. There’s no man made shelter, but the thick forest is at least good for this much.

Getting there, however--

Rick falls flat on his stomach when the gunfire starts again, and he army crawls a few feet before turning around. He lifts himself just enough to roll Billy on his back. The Scot flops lifelessly, and Rick doesn’t have time to make sure he’s still breathing as he wraps an arm around the other man and starts to drag him back.

It’s not a glamorous effort, and the entire process is tedious. Rick’s heart is pounding as bark sprays down on him. By the time he yanks Billy into the thickened brush at the treeline, his chest is tight with exertion. He doesn’t have time to arrange Billy more comfortable before he pulls his gun and starts firing.

He empties his clip blindly, and pulls back against a thick tree trunk while he fumbles to reload. The barrage of gunfire is disconcerting background noise, and he tries not to notice how badly his fingers are shaking.

When he’s done, he stops and breathes. He has limited ammunition; he has limited time. If he drags this thing out, more bad guys might arrive. Rick is already outnumbered; he’s pretty sure he can’t fend off any more.

He glances at Billy.

And Billy needs to get out of here.

Rick takes another breath and closes his eyes. He can stare down a train; he can finish the race. Hell, he can go head to head with a damn elephant.

He can do this.

Rick opens his eyes and moves.

-o-

It’s just like training.

He lifts himself, holding his gun steady, and narrows his eyes, aiming clearly for central mass. He fires -- one, two -- and a man goes down. He shifts his aim -- three, four, five -- another goes down.

A third man appears, and Rick pulls back, pressing himself against the tree with his eyes wide as he pants.

Two down.

He just took two men down.

It’s a horrifying rush, because this isn’t quite the thrill of a mission. He might have killed two men. It’s self defense; it’s a good cause; it’s part of his duty--

But two men.

Rick thinks of his own mother, back in the States. He thinks of her holding her rosary, saying extra prayers to bring him home safe and sound.

These men have mothers. They have fathers. They could have brothers and sister. They could have wives. They could have children. They might be defending their families, fighting for a cause that they believe in. Maybe they go to church; maybe they give to the poor.

Or maybe they’re terrible people. It’s hard to say. Rick will never know. All he knows for sure is that they’re human.

They’re also probably dead.

If dying is a part of the job Rick’s accepted, he’s always known that killing might go hand in hand with it. He doesn’t want to kill people, but he also doesn’t want to die. He knows that sometimes, in this line of work, things have to be done for the greater good.

His eyes lock on Billy again.

It occurs to him that he doesn’t know if Billy’s even worth it. He believes the ODS has good intentions; he knows they do good work. But they’re bastards; they’re liars. They can’t be trusted, and they haven’t even been nice to Rick.

Still, Billy said it best. Rick has the heart of a hero. But Billy had been wrong. He doesn’t need cunning. He doesn’t need to sniff out deception.

He just has to make this shot.

Rick’s scared. He’s downright terrified. But Rick doesn’t quit.

If he loses, it’s not for a lack of determination and effort.

He feels the lull in the gunfire and springs into action, focusing his gaze. One, two, three -- a man goes down. Four, five, six -- nothing lands.

Cursing, Rick pulls back just in time as bark sprays in his face.

Mentally, he tries to calm himself. Three men are down. That’s only two or three left. That’s not so bad.

Unwavering, Rick pulls out again, and he gets lucky with the first shot. The second sends one of the men scrambling, and there’s a brief period of silence. Without a target to shoot at, Rick stands stupidly for a second before he realizes what happened.

Before he realizes that he may be the last man standing.

He dares to hope. The tentative jubilation is intoxicating. Maybe he’s done it.

Maybe he’s stared down a trained; maybe he’s won the race. Maybe he still has a chance to fix this.

But when machine gun fire makes a tree trunk explode two feet from his head, the force sends him sprawling and he hits the ground, curling tight as the foliage seems to fly and spin, the staccato gunfire almost deafening him as he holds his breath and waits for a killing blow.

Maybe not.

-o-

Even when the gunfire stops, Rick can still feel it, reverberating deep inside him. His heart is almost pounding out of his chest, and each breath squeezed through his constricted lungs feels more tenuous than the last. His head is light; his awareness is splintered.

He’s not dead.

The relief leaves him giddy for a moment, before his eyes settle on Billy and he realizes, with stunning clarity, that the decisions he makes in the next few seconds could very well be the difference between life and death.

He blinks, weighing his options. He could return fire, but he’s firing blind now. He doesn’t have a visual on this new group or even how many there may be. The chances that he’ll guess right and take out enough of them to make a difference are slim.

He could surrender. It’s a bold option, but Rick’s opted for unconventional before. Outing them in Africa had saved Michael’s hand, and he has to think that surrender will at least gain them some time.

It also might make them hostages.

Or get them killed.

Which leaves his last option: retreat.

It’s not exactly Rick’s favorite option -- he doesn’t like to quit.

But then, he also never played chicken to actually get hit by a train. The trick is knowing when to jump.

The answer is now.

Rick blinks again and springs into action. He crawls forward, snagging Billy and hoisting him with one arm as he scuttles deeper into the trees. The gunfire starts up again, mowing through the brush they just vacated, and Rick moves until the ground changes its pitch and starts down. It’s not a big gully, but it’s enough for now. With one final heave, he pulls Billy over the edge and they both tumble down.

When they stop, Rick curls protectively around Billy and waits to the thundering sound of bullets above their heads.

-o-

Rick’s not dead.

That’s his first assessment, and probably the most reassuring one. Despite the fact that he’s been fired on repeatedly, he is completely alive and remarkably unharmed.

Propping himself up a little in the relative safety of his gulley, Rick looks at Billy next. The Scotsman is blinking, wide-eyed and confused. But he’s still alive, too. And that counts for something.

That’s sort of where the good news stops, though. The frantic retreat into the gulley saved their lives, but it’s cost them more than a little. Not only is their option for escape severely limited now, but Rick’s lost his pack. The bandages and extra ammunition are out there, but with conditions being what they are, Rick knows he has no way of getting them.

Which means, he’s got one gun and a few extra clips in his pockets. It’s not enough to get them out of here, and it’s probably not enough to fend off whoever is out there for much longer. Plus, he no longer has any visibility. He has no way of assessing where the combatants are, which makes further retreat impossible.

Essentially, Rick has blocked himself into a corner.

The realization is crushing.

Swallowing, he blinks rapidly, trying his best to come to terms with the implications. He’s not going to get Billy out of here. He’s not going to get himself out of here.

This is it.

This is it.

Tears burn at his eyes, and for a second, he thinks he may sob. There’s no one here to see it, but Rick knows that’s not the point.

The point is, this is still his mission. He’s still in charge.

And Rick doesn’t quit.

If a train is going to hit him, he’ll still be standing, face forward when it happens.

Resolved, he gets his ammunition in order and goes back to Billy. Carefully, he lifts the other man, moving them both until Rick’s back is against the far slope of the gulley and he has one arm across Billy’s chest protectively.

Under his touch, Billy murmurs, his head lolling against Rick’s shoulder as he lapses in and out of consciousness.

“It’s okay,” Rick says quietly. “It’s going to be okay.”

Billy lifts his eyes slightly, trying to focus. “The mission?” he slurs.

Rick grinds his teeth together for a moment before nodding. “Under control.”

Billy’s gaze grows distant, and he smiles faintly. “Always knew,” he continues. “Heart of a hero.”

The compliment is so unexpected that it leaves Rick speechless.

It leaves him gutted.

He’s been working so hard for someone to believe in him, to prove himself, and the only time he gets the affirmation he wants, he doesn’t deserve it.

Billy is dying because of him, and there’s no way out because of him. This is Rick’s fault. He’s no hero. He’s just some stupid kid in over his head, too stupid to know when to ask for help. It’s bad enough that it’s going to cost him his own life. That it’ll cost Billy his...

He takes a ragged breath, bringing Billy closer. The other man has slipped away again, and Rick nods. “I’ll see this through,” he promises, both to Billy and to the rest of the ODS. He promises it to Higgins and his mother and everyone else. He promises it to himself.

Then he primes his gun, leveling it at the top of the gulley. If someone approaches, he’ll have a clean shot to take them out. He can’t hold off everyone, but he can defend this position for a while.

He looks at Billy guiltily, feeling the heat of fever still burning through him.

He’ll see this through. Until he’s out of bullets; until he’s out of options; until he’s out of time.

Until he’s out of everything.

-o-

Making a last sound seems like a good idea, but the truth is, it’s sort of nerve-wracking. They’re in a rainforest, after all. There are a thousand little noises, and every time the brush rustles, Rick has to resist the urge to start firing. Not only would it give away his position prematurely, but it would waste bullets he can’t afford to be without.

It’s all less than ideal.

In fact, it’s surreal. He thinks about his brothers back home. He wonders what they’re doing. They’d always made fun of him growing, for being the diligent one.

He’s not sure if the joke’s on them or him at this point.

His finger itches on the trigger, the sweat slicking his hands not making his grip any surer. A rivulet runs into his eye, and he twitches, gritting his teeth together so hard that he can hear it in his head.

It’s just a matter of time.

Then, there’s a different sound, a branch breaking and something scatters. The sound is gone as fast as its there, and it’s too deliberate to be anything but human.

Rick’s breath catches, and he finds himself drawing Billy’s slumped form even closer. He tightens his grip, narrows his sights, and reminds himself that this is his job.

This is why he’s here.

To serve his country, to do his duty.

No matter what.

In the silence that follows, Rick almost breaks. The adrenaline is too much; the intensity is overwhelming. He’s going to die here; he’s going to die and Billy’s going to die and it doesn’t matter if Rick shoots first or second or at all.

He’s scared. No, he’s terrified. This is the job that he signed up for, but he didn’t even know what that meant. It seems like years since he graduated from the Farm. It seems like another life.

And here he is. Guarding a wounded teammate in a gulley, surrounded by hostiles. There’s no intel involved. Just a lot of bad choices, and Rick’s pointing a gun at the air like he can fix that.

Then, before Rick can blink, there’s movement and a head appears.

This time, in the face of an oncoming train, Rick freezes and puts up no defense in the face of inevitable death.

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: September 24th, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC)
What a roller coaster ride!

Yikes, you are really putting Rick through his paces. The poor kid is like running ragged in more ways than one. You tired me out just reading everything that he's going through! Great action, great insights into what Rick is feeling and you empathize with him. Success then failure, hope then desperation. Just fabulous!

Of course, my favorite moment is when Billy gives him his total faith and compliments him by confirming his first assessment of Rick having the heart of a hero. Talk about gut wrenching! LOVED IT!!!

You also have a way of doing Silent!Billy that's so wonderful! I know you enjoy putting him out of commission!


Fave Part:

Under his touch, Billy murmurs, his head lolling against Rick’s shoulder as he lapses in and out of consciousness.

“It’s okay,” Rick says quietly. “It’s going to be okay.”

Billy lifts his eyes slightly, trying to focus. “The mission?” he slurs.

Rick grinds his teeth together for a moment before nodding. “Under control.”

Billy’s gaze grows distant, and he smiles faintly. “Always knew,” he continues. “Heart of a hero.”

The compliment is so unexpected that it leaves Rick speechless.

It leaves him gutted.

He’s been working so hard for someone to believe in him, to prove himself, and the only time he gets the affirmation he wants, he doesn’t deserve it.

Billy is dying because of him, and there’s no way out because of him. This is Rick’s fault. He’s no hero. He’s just some stupid kid in over his head, too stupid to know when to ask for help. It’s bad enough that it’s going to cost him his own life. That it’ll cost Billy his...

He takes a ragged breath, bringing Billy closer. The other man has slipped away again, and Rick nods. “I’ll see this through,” he promises, both to Billy and to the rest of the ODS. He promises it to Higgins and his mother and everyone else. He promises it to himself.

--THUD!


Edited at 2013-09-24 10:42 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 28th, 2013 02:21 am (UTC)
Re: What a roller coaster ride!
chaos rick

Poor Rick. I mean, sure Billy suffers a lot but Rick gets ALL the angst possible. I am rather mean to all of them!

Thanks!

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