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Chaos fic: All's Well That Ends Well

October 28th, 2013 (06:55 pm)
hopeful
Tags: , ,

feeling: hopeful

Title: All’s Well that Ends Well

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: Random h/c fic. Beta thanks to sophie_deangirl.

Summary: Michael cares about his team -- he’d die for them -- and yet, the mission comes first.



-o-

Michael swears.

Billy looks at him in mild dismay.

Michael leans forward, squints and curses again. "That's him."

"What?" Billy asks, turning his eyes out to the darkened street. It's night, so it's a little hard to see, but Michael's sure.

He's so damn sure. "That's Martin!"

Billy's been placid the last few hours -- and Michael can't blame him. They've been staking out the apartment of a low level informant, trying to see if the guy's about to double cross them. Eric Martin making a personal appearance at the apartment is not a good sign for the informant's trustworthiness -- but it's a damn big break in the case.

"Martin? As in, one of the CIA's most wanted? Drug smuggler, gun runner, murderer and general all around bad guy?" Billy asks.

"That's him," Michael says, fumbling to pull out his phone. "Start the car."

Billy's eyebrows go up. "We're following?"

"We've been after this guy for years," Michael says, putting a 911 text in to Casey and Rick. "No one has sighted him in over six months."

"But the mission--"

"Just changed," Michael says. "Now go."

"All right," Billy says as the engine rumbles to life. "A midnight chase -- off the cuff. We'll see how this goes."

-o-

Billy had a slow start, but he's good at playing the tail, and they follow Martin's car for nearly five miles before Billy voices his concern. "Should we have backup?"

"Casey's on his way," Michael reports, glancing at his phone. "Martinez is going to the informant's place."

“And we feel as though two men in a rented car with handguns is enough to face one of the most notorious criminals in Europe?” Billy asks, even as he effortlessly slides the car around another corner.

Michael smirks. “We’ve done more with less.”

Billy grunts, looking somewhat bemused. “And we’ve failed with more.”

Michael can’t help but grin. “All part of the game, Collins.”

“Aye,” Billy says, eyes on the road. “That it is.”

-o-

Martin drives for nearly five miles when Michael starts to get anxious. Billy’s been increasing his grip on the steering wheel the entire journey, and it’s clear the Scot doesn’t like how this is going.

“This is a rather meandering drive for this time of night,” Billy observes.

Michael narrows his eyes, watching the tail lights of Martin’s car take another right, which officially means they’ve been going in concentric circles. “Martin is sort of a paranoid bastard.”

“And he’s good at what he does,” Billy says. “I’m guessing we’ve been spotted.”

“But why isn’t he stopping?” Michael asks the obvious. “He’s not trying to lose us.”

Billy completes another turn and then hits the brakes, and Michael realizes why.

Martin’s not trying to lose them.

He’s trying to trap them.

“What the--” Billy mutters as Martin’s door opens.

Michael swears, then grabs at Billy, yanking him hard. “Down!”

The word is lost, though, along with Billy’s yelp in reply as machine gun fire breaks out.

-o-

Martin isn’t really known for his finesse, which is a nice point in a file but rather less nice when it’s being lived. Martin has ample ammunition, and he uses it indiscriminately, firing rapid fire rounds into their rental. The windshield splinters and then shatters; the engine pops and hisses. Metal dings and upholstery flies, and Michael curls himself into the space beneath the steering wheel, eyes closed and hoping for the best.

It seems to take forever -- long, dragging moments drowned out by the continuous blasts of gunfire -- and when there’s a lull, Michael almost hesitates to believe it.

Almost.

The thing is, Michael is a planner in the office, but in the field, he operates almost as instinctively as Malick. He’s good at what he does, and though he’s a master planner, he’s a pretty damn smart field operative.

So when his gut tells him to take his chance, he does.

He pulls his gun -- it’s just a regular pistol, but Michael’s really a fan of the classics -- and he grapples for the door handle. There’s not much left, and when he pulls the handle, the door nearly falls off altogether, half clanking to the ground.

Which means he doesn’t have much by way of surprise, but at this point, he doesn’t care. Martin just exhausted hundreds of rounds on their car; he’ll be expecting a bullet riddled corpse, so Michael likes his odds.

To be safe, he slips out low, gets his footing, primes his gun--

And then rises.

There’s a flash of movement, and Michael sees Martin raise his rather impressive looking gun up once again, face twisted with a snarl--

Michael fires first.

The first three shots are instinct.

When he finishes the clip, it’s the adrenaline.

Because he found Martin; he tailed Martin; Martin tried to kill him.

And Michael’s the last man standing.

His heart is pounding too much to feel genuinely smug, and his legs falter slightly when he jogs across the distance of the abandoned alley Martin had tried to use as his execution site. When he gets there, he drops to his knees, pressing two fingers into the pulse point at Martin’s neck.

He knows what he’ll find, though. Martin is a bloody mess, two bullets to the chest and another that clipped the side of his skull. His eyes are open and unseeing. He’s dead.

Michael’s stomach sinks a little. He’s justified in this killing, but he’d rather have taken in Martin alive. Still, if they have Martin’s car and cell phone, it’s a wealth of intel. It’s still a huge boon. He and Billy will essentially be heroes.

Billy.

The thought of his teammates brings him back to his feet, and he traverses the distance back to the ruined car. From the outside, the thing is totaled, hardly recognizable. How Michael survived the shooting without more than scratches is remarkable.

The chances of Billy having the same luck...

Michael doesn’t let himself finish the thought. Because this is Billy; this is Michael’s team. They beat the odds all the time. They do the impossible on every mission.

“Billy?” he calls, moving carefully to the place where Michael’s passenger door had fallen off. “You okay?”

There’s no immediate answer, so Michael ducks his head back inside. The interior is a mess, littered with broken glass and bits of metal and plastic. Billy’s in the seat, still strapped into his seatbelt. He’s sitting up, and when Michael looks at him, the Scot raises lidded eyes to meet his gaze. Billy inhales raggedly, mouth open as if to speak--

There’s no witty comeback, though. No snide reminder about taking too many risks. No quips about the price they pay for the mission.

Instead, blood wells up and leaks down Billy’s chin. It’s a frightening image, made worse when Michael looks his teammate over again.

At first, it’s hard to see with all the debris and the low light outside. But Billy’s shirt is dark, which might be normal except the Scot had been wearing a white shirt earlier. The traces of white are hardly visible now, and the fabric clings to Billy, glistening in the flickering illumination of the lone light in the alleyway.

Blood.

Billy’s soaked in blood.

It’s dripping down his chin, smeared across his neck. His shirt is drenched with it, and Michael can see it clinging to his pants.

They beat the odds all the time. They do the impossible on every mission.

Except, of course, all those times when they don’t.

-o-

Instinct.

When things are bad and there’s no plan left, Michael still has instinct. He likes to take months to build his plans, but he can throw one together when he needs to.

And he needs to now.

He’s not under the delusion that plans have to be completely complex. Sometimes they do, but sometimes simple is better.

Sometimes simple is all there is.

This is Michael’s plan: Get Billy out.

Frantic, he moves around to the driver’s side. He puts his hand on the handle, but this door falls off completely. Michael steps over it, ducking down and reaching around Billy with a smile. “Nothing personal, okay?” he asks, grappling for Billy’s seatbelt. “Just got to get you out of here.”

Billy’s eyes are still open, but dull, and he blinks wordlessly at Michael, as if he’s not sure what’s happening.

When the latch gives, Michael hurriedly moves the belt out of the way, snaking it back under Billy’s arm. He’s gentle, mindful of the blood, but doesn’t slow down.

“Okay,” he says, repositioning himself. “We’re going to get you out of here.”

He doesn’t give Billy a chance to reply, not that the Scot is in any position to do so. But when Michael wraps his arms under Billy’s armpits, the other man gasps. When Michael pulls, gentle but firm, the Scot whimpers, making an inarticulate cry and Michael pulls him from the car and drags him to a clean spot on the ground.

It’s work -- Billy’s wiry but he’s not exactly small -- and with his pounding heart, Michael is sweating by the time he lays Billy out on the concrete. They’re close enough to the light to benefit from its scant glow, and Michael sits back on his heels to reassess the situation.

He sort of wonders why he bothered. Because the situation just keeps getting worse. Billy’s a mess, and that’s the nice way of putting it. His shirt is not just drenched, it’s practically shredded. There’s a line of bullet holes across Billy’s chest and stomach, and when Michael looks, he finds another handful of shots on Billy’s arms and legs. There’s a deep graze on his neck. All in all, Michael counts a dozen shots, give or take a few.

A dozen.

Michael’s stomach turns. He’s not a squeamish man, but Billy’s not just been shot; he’s been riddled.

And the blood.

He’s barely had Billy on the ground for half a minute, and the blood is already starting to collect on the ground. Michael’s hands are coated with it, and his own shirt is smudged and wet.

It’s a miracle Billy’s still alive, much less conscious.

And for the first time, Michael doesn’t know what to do. He has no plans. He has no instincts. He just has Billy, with more bullet holes than Michael could ever hope to fix, bleeding out because of a stroke of dumb luck.

“Billy?” he finally says, his voice unsteady as he moves closer to his teammate. He reaches down, putting a reassuring hand on Billy’s cheek. “I’m going to get you out of here, okay?”

It’s not exactly a lie, even if Michael has no way of ensuring that it’s true. But it’s comfort and affirmation, and at the moment, it’s really all he has to give.

It’s not enough.

Billy holds his gaze, shaky for a moment.

“Billy?” Michael asks again.

But Billy’s eyes slide shut and his head lolls into Michael’s touch.

It’s not enough.

-o-

Honestly, Michael’s not actually sure what happens next. He’s still sitting numbly on his knees when there’s the sound of tires and the slam of a car door. The short, steady footfalls across the pavement are familiar enough that Michael doesn’t go into fight or flight mode. As it is, he barely looks up in time to see Casey’s face go pale.

“We got Martin,” Michael says, as if that helps.

Casey’s face almost goes entirely blank, eyes still fixed on Billy. “We’re going to have to take him in.”

“The blood--” Michael tries to explain.

“And the dead body,” Casey snaps. “We take him in; we get Martinez over here to clean up.”

Michael stares at him, not sure what to say.

Casey looks back, expression hard. “That’s all we can do.”

Michael has no strength left to disagree.

-o-

Michael’s shaky, but Casey is completely focused as he almost single-handedly transfers Billy to the other car. Michael climbs in the back to help position Billy, and ends up with the Scot sprawled limply on top of him, cradled in his arms. This much physical contact isn’t like them, and Billy would joke about the hug if he were conscious.

Billy’s not conscious, though. He’s limp and pale, blood draining out of him faster than Michael thinks he can survive.

Casey slams the doors shut and starts the engine. “Hold on tight,” he says flatly.

So Michael pulls Billy closer, ignoring the warm blood as it soaks into his shirt and pants, and holds him as the car lurches forward.

-o-

Casey’s usually the last one to take the wheel, and with good reason. He’s impatient and overzealous, as if he believes the rules of the road to be too mundane to actually apply to him. This makes him a horrible choice for making a lunch run across town.

It makes him pretty damn good at getting them to the hospital in a timely fashion.

Casey drives like a maniac, gripping the wheel with one hand while he yells orders at Martinez through the phone with the other.

Michael does his best to use his body to cushion the jarring and shaking in the car. He hoists Billy closer until he can feel the faint puffs or Billy’s breath against his cheek. The smell of blood is thick and metallic, and it fills Michael’s nose and turns his stomach. When he closes his eyes, he can still feel it all over him.

After a few minutes, Billy’s breathing hitches. The Scot emits a whine, and when Michael looks at him, his face is scrunched with pain. Then his mouth falls open as he gapes, straining for air as he takes a gurgling breath. Billy’s heartbeat is fainter now, erratic, and Michael’s not scared of much, but he’s scared of this.

His fear is irrelevant.

So are his planning and his skills.

No matter what Michael does now, he can’t stop this. He can’t drive the car faster or put the blood back in Billy’s body.

All he can do is hold the other man while his heartbeat staggers and his breathing shudders.

Then stops.

The car skids to a halt. “We’re here,” Casey all but yells, even as he’s storming out of the car door the emergency room doors.

And Michael’s left with Billy, his still, dead body in his arms, knowing it’s already too late.

-o-

When the medical team swarms the car, Michael is summarily pulled out and pushed to the side. The gaggle of nurses and doctors extract Billy efficiently, securing him to a backboard before transferring him to a gurney. As they push Billy inside, the Scot’s face catches the lights, and Michael can see his gray complexion, still and unmoving, beneath the blood.

“Okay,” Casey says finally, as if rallying his own strength. “Okay. We can do this--”

Michael swallows so hard it hurts. It hurts. He shakes his head, eyes inexplicably wet. “Billy’s dead.”

Casey acts like he doesn’t hear him. “We can get one of the local operatives to come over and give Martinez a hand and decide what to do with Martin’s body,” he continues. “And if we call Langley, maybe you can get Fay--”

Michael can hardly hear him. He shakes his head again. “Billy’s dead.

“This is a hospital,” Casey says reasonably. “They can fix that.”

The emotions swell so suddenly that Michael is helpless against them. Because he’s covered in Billy’s blood and he can still feel the last beat of Billy’s heart, the absence of Billy’s breath as he held him in his arms. “Billy’s dead,” he says again because it’s the only thing that matters. “He’s dead--

Just that fast, Casey turns on him, grabbing his soiled shirtfront with his fist and shaking Michael fiercely. His face is contorted with rage as he stares at Michael with nothing short of pure animosity. “You aren’t going to say that,” he snarls. “Because if Billy’s dead, then someone is going to die at my hand in compensation, and I really would prefer it not to be you.”

Michael blinks, genuinely surprised.

“So shut up,” Casey growls, shaking Michael again. “Shut up and be the damn team leader we need you to be.”

Their eyes are locked, and as Michael’s widen with surprise, Casey’s are unyielding. After several moments of tense silence, Casey eases his grip, releasing Michael and stepping away.

“We do the job,” he says flatly. “It sucks, but we do it, and we never accept failure until it’s right in front of us.”

Michael wants to point out that all the blood is a pretty compelling case, but when Casey looks at him again, there’s an exquisite and unspoken pain there.

“Not yet,” he says, softly now. “Not yet.”

Michael’s already failed Billy; he can’t fail Casey. Slowly, he nods, closing his mouth and pursing his lips. “Okay,” he says, because that’s all he really has.

The tension drains from Casey’s shoulders, and he looks almost grateful.

Michael takes a breath. “Let’s go find out about Billy.”

-o-

Michael barely gets inside before he’s accosted by additional medical staff. Apparently, walking through an ER covered in blood makes quite the scene. When an overzealous nurse determines that he’s fine, he’s given a fresh pair of scrubs and access to a sink. As he cleans himself, he asks about Billy but no one tells him anything.

By the time he gets to the waiting room, Casey is already there along with Martinez. Rick looks jittery, and he’s on his feet when Michael approaches. “How is he?” he asks.

Michael shrugs. “Haven’t heard,” he says. “But why are you here?”

“Some officers from the local CIA annex took over,” Rick explains. “I wanted to -- I mean, Billy--”

Michael sighs, sinking wearily into one of the chair. “I wish I had an answer for you,” he says.

Rick sits down next to him, still on the edge of his seat. “He’ll be okay, right?”

Michael’s eyes drift to Casey, who stubbornly refuses to look back at him.

Swallowing, Michael forces a smile. “He lost a lot of blood,” he admits finally.

“But he’s Billy,” Rick insists. “He has to be okay.”

At this point, Michael doesn’t have the heart to disagree with him.

-o-

A nurse finally comes to tell them Billy’s been taken to surgery. She won’t comment much on his condition, but in her accented English, she reminds them it’s going to be touch and go. “Most of the wounds were fortunately relatively shallow,” she says. “Direct hits would have been much worse.”

“So what can we expect?” Michael asks.

She smiles gently. “Shallow or not, your friend has suffered 14 gunshot wounds. That amount of damage will take time to address. It’s going to be a long wait.”

A long wait. Funny, Michael doesn’t even know what time it is. He doesn’t know how much time has past. The last thing he really knows is when he was sitting in a car with Billy, keeping watch over an informant that might have turned.

In a few short hours, they’ve caught the most notorious criminal in the region and Billy’s almost bled to death.

Time flies, and not just when you’re having fun.

“We will keep you updated,” she says. “If there’s anything I can do for you...”

There’s nothing, though. Nothing any of them can do but wait.

And hope.

(And it’s not enough.)

-o-

They wait.

The hours are long and awkward. None of them know what to say, and Michael doesn’t have the heart to try. He listens to Casey hum to himself; he watches Rick fidget.

He plays with the blood still caked under his fingernails, and reminds himself that it’s not his fault. He didn’t pull the trigger. If they had the chance to take Martin again, Michael would do it, in a heartbeat -- and Billy would agree with him.

That’s not much comfort, though. Some missions are bought and paid for with sweat and tears.

Some with blood.

Some with a body count.

This is what Michael does; these are the decisions he makes. He’s had blood on his hands more than once in his career.

It’s never been so hard.

-o-

The updates grow sporadic, each less informative than the last. When several hours lapse the next morning with no further word, Rick falls asleep and Casey seems to have gone into a trance.

Michael’s tired, but he can’t sleep. Not with the gnawing doubt in the pit of his stomach. Not when every time he closes his eyes, he still sees the blood.

When a doctor comes out, Michael is the first on his feet. “How is he?” he all but demands.

The doctor shifts tiredly, then sighs. “I’m sorry.”

-o-

Billy’s not dead, but he may as well be. He lost over half his blood supply, and they aren’t sure they got all the bleeders just yet. Infection is almost going to be a given, and Billy’s body just doesn’t have any fight left. The worst of the bullets tore through one of his lungs, lodging near his heart. Another made a mess of his large intestines.

They don’t think he’ll last the day.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor says again, for whatever that’s worth.

He’s not the only one.

-o-

Michael insists on letting Rick take the first shift, and then forces Casey in after him. He thinks of his time exiled to the waiting room as penance, but when it’s finally his turn, he faces Billy’s ICU cubicle knowing full well that’s not what it’s about. This isn’t about punishing himself or doing what his teammates needs.

This is about fear.

Because Michael’s afraid Billy’s going to die. Michael’s afraid he threw together a plan and trusted his instincts and condemned a good man -- a talented spy -- to death. Michael’s afraid, more than anything, that he’s killed his best friend.

When he gets to Billy’s side, he stands there stupidly. The blood has been mostly cleaned away or covered with a wide swath of bandages over most of his body. The ventilator obscures his mouth, and the entire scene is so surreal that it hardly seems like Billy at all.

But Michael steps closer, and sees it for what it is.

Billy.

Dying -- but not dead yet.

Billy.

Stomach tight, Michael takes Billy’s limp fingers and squeezes them. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, because he’s not sure what else to say. He chokes back a sob. “I’m so, so sorry.”

-o-

Later, when Michael takes another turn in the waiting room, he gets a call from Higgins. He’s surprised that it’s direct, and he’s too tired to avoid the call.

“Operative Dorset,” Higgins says, sounding positively chipper even halfway across the world. “I have just received official confirmation that Eric Martin has been contained. That is unexpected and excellent work. I would like to offer my congratulations and my thanks on a job very well done.”

It’s positively effusive, especially coming from Higgins. Michael was right; he is going to be a hero.

He just hopes Billy doesn’t end up as a star on the wall for it.

“If there’s anything you need,” Higgins continues. “Please, let me know.”

There are lots of things Michael needs, but they aren’t things Higgins can give him.

“I understand Operative Collins is still in critical condition,” Higgins goes on. “Has there been any change?”

Michael’s throat his tight. “No, sir,” he says. “Still touch and go.”

Higgins sighs. “I know these things are never easy, but you made the right choice for your country -- and for the world.”

Michael knows this. He knows this.

None of it makes it any easier.

-o-

Back in the waiting room, Michael finds Rick. The kid looks worse than Michael has ever seen him, and that’s counting the time he almost bled out in South America.

It’s sobering. More than that it reminds Michael of Casey’s words outside the ER last night. Billy’s not the only one in jeopardy here.

He sighs, sitting down heavily next to Martinez. He feels old suddenly, as if all the years are finally catching up to him.

“Any word?” he asks.

Rick doesn’t look at him, his gaze fixed at a point on the floor while he chews nervously at a hangnail. “The same,” he says, chewing a moment more.

Michael tries to think of something to say, some sort of comfort to offer. He’s coming up short.

Rick fidgets, then looks at him, his brown eyes anguished. “This is what we do,” he announces, as if it’s some sort of revelation. “I mean, this is part of our job description.”

Michael nods. “Yeah,” he concedes, because that’s never been a point of contention.

“When it was me,” Rick continues, “in the back of that SUV, I was okay with it. I thought it was acceptable. Noble, even. Now...” He trails off, his gaze going wide again. “Now it’s just not that simple.”

“No,” Michael says in commiseration. “It never is.”

When Rick looks up at him again, the pain is palpable. “How do you do it?” he asks. “How do you take this risk and keep going, mission after mission?”

The question is simple, but the answer isn’t. It guts him, touches deep within him to the very basic conflict he has with what he does. Because he cares about his team -- he’d die for them -- and yet, the mission comes first.

He takes a breath and lets it out. Then he shrugs helplessly. “That’s just the job,” he says. “You accept it and keep going or you walk away.”

And that’s it. At the crux of it, that’s what this is about. It’s about the fact that Michael’s a heartless bastard by choice as much as necessity -- and he hates himself for it.

Rick looks down again, because he has nothing he can say. There’s nothing Michael can tell him. The kid has to make up his own mind.

And maybe Rick’ll be the better man.

-o-

When Michael goes to relieve Casey from his shift, the older man stops him outside the room. His face is pinched, but he looks Michael in the eyes. “I don’t blame you,” he announces.

Michael isn’t sure what kind of response is appropriate.

Casey draws a breath and keeps it pent up. “I know what I said,” he continues. “And I know how I feel. But emotions lie to us. Emotions cloud the facts. And the fact is, you did what any of us would have done. And as much as I hate you for it, I respect the hell out of you for it, too.”

The tension in Michael’s chest builds, both in regret and thanks. “It doesn’t seem like it’s worth Billy’s life.”

“No,” Casey agrees. “Even when it might be.”

There’s a moment between them, a solidarity that they’ve never needed to speak to know that it exists. There’s nothing more to say. There’s just the same grief; the same regret; the same truth.

And the same hope.

Michael takes a breath. “How’s he doing?”

“Crappy,” Casey reports. “Vitals are all over the place and it seems like his BP is going to crash every five minutes.”

“But he’s holding on?”

A thin, wry smile crosses Casey’s face. “He’s Billy,” he says. “What did you expect?”

-o-

Inside, Casey’s right. Billy is doing crappy.

His color hasn’t improved, and the machines don’t paint a good picture. He looks small, lost beneath the equipment. The room seems to be hastily arranged, as if the nurses are expecting him to crash at any moment.

Billy’s condition is precarious.

An unavoidable casualty is how it’ll be written up in the report. Billy’s injuries will be classified as a natural extension of the mission. Acceptable.

Standing there, though, Michael’s not on a mission. He’s not even a team leader. He’s a guy watching his best friend cling to life -- and it’s his fault. He made the right choices for the right reasons, but it’s still his fault.

Michael’s a hero and Billy’s dying, and it was avoidable. And it’s totally unacceptable.

And Rick can look to him for help. Casey can absolve him. Higgins can thrown him a damn ticker tape parade, but none of that changes the simple truth that it’s not worth it.

-o-

When midnight passes, Michael refuses to leave. He’s not sure what strings Higgins has pulled, but no one calls him on it and Casey drags Martinez back to the motel.

This is still his mission, after all.

He’s going to see it through.

The hours are long, and Michael counts the minutes with the beeps of Billy’s heart monitor. Michael doesn’t waver, though. Billy never balked, never looked back when Michael took them on a chase that ended in a hail of gunfire.

This time Billy’s leading, and it’s Michael’s turn to follow.

No matter where they end up.

-o-

In the morning, Michael is sore and exhausted. Every bone feels weary, and he’s lightheaded with hunger. When the doctor makes morning rounds, though, Michael perks up, watching as the man steps back thoughtfully.

“What?” Michael demands. “How is he?”

The doctor looks at him, surprised -- and pleased. “Better,” he says. “I think perhaps your friend is very lucky.”

Michael does his best not to laugh -- not to break down hysterically right there -- because luck has nothing to do with it.

-o-

The next day is full of small improvements. Casey convinces Michael to take a turn at the motel, and when he returns, he finds Rick smiling. Casey says it’s more good news.

By the end of the day, Billy’s fever is steady and his BP is up. The bleeding has stopped, and the doctors are officially optimistic.

The good news is a little intoxicating, and Michael lets himself share a hug with Martinez and smirk with Malick. They’re going to pull through. By the skin of their teeth, they’re going to walk away together.

But during the nights, sitting by Billy while the ventilator still pushes air into his lung, Michael is reminded that it’s really not so simple. The fact that Billy’s going to survive doesn’t change the fact that Michael willingly put his life on the line.

Because this is also part of the job. Overlooking risks because of past successes that are anything but. This mission will be glossed over and commended, but Michael knows the truth. The fact that a greater good is more important than the person next to you. Michael’s the best damn spy in the world and a pisspoor best friend.

Sometimes, Michael really hates his job.

-o-

They extubate Billy a few days later, and the Scot begins to show groggy signs of awareness. For about a day, he’s too out of it to make any sense, but Michael is there when the Scot’s eyes open -- and stay open.

“Michael?” he asks, sounding genuinely confused.

Michael grins, a fresh way of relief hitting him. With Billy being technically dead, there’d been some talk of brain damage. “In the flesh,” he returns.

Billy’s brow furrows and he swallows, wincing visibly. “I...” He looks around. “Hospital?”

“Yeah,” Michael says. “You gave us a scare.”

At that, Billy looks confused. “What happened?”

Michael hesitates. “What do you remember?”

It’s really not a fair question. Billy’s been deeply unconscious for the better part of a week, and he’s still extremely weak and facing months of rehabilitation. And the motivation behind the question is almost entirely selfish.

Still, Billy makes a genuine effort to remember -- and it’s clearly work. “I...the stakeout,” he recalls slowly. He scrunches his nose, then his eyes widen. “Martin. We saw Martin.”

Michael grinds his teeth together for a moment. “Anything else?”

“We pursued,” Billy says. He tilts his head. “And...he trapped us?”

“Yeah,” Michael confirms. “Sprayed us with machine gun fire.”

Billy looks down at the length of his body, which is still covered in enough bandages to make him look half-mummy. “Oh,” he says finally as the pieces fall into place. “That is...unfortunate.”

Michael grimaces in sympathy. “Do you want to hear the rundown?”

Billy looks up. “Pass for now,” he murmurs, clearly tired. He keeps his eyes open, though. “And you’re okay?”

Michael lets out a short, bitter laugh. “Nothing more than a scratch,” he confirms.

Billy seems to relax at that, and Michael is content to let the other man drift back to sleep when he startles awake again. “Martin,” he says, with sudden intensity as his eyes lock on Michael’s. “Did we get him?”

The question is so earnest that it almost hurt. No, it does hurt. It rips out Michael’s heart and shoves it back inside still beating.

Because Billy doesn’t care about his own injuries.

He just cares that they got the bastard.

Michael understands again, what he’s known all along, what he knew in the beginning. That’s what this job is about.

The mission.

Even when it costs you everything.

Even when it’s not worth it.

That’s what makes them heroes. Not catching the bad guy; not gathering intel. But putting their lives on the line -- putting each other’s lives on the line -- and knowing that no matter what happens, that’s just what they do.

“Yeah,” Michael says thickly. “We got him.”

A smile settles over Billy’s face and his eyes drift shut again. “All’s well that ends well, then,” he says, his voice no more than a whisper as he slips into sleep again.

Michael sits there, watching his breathing even out. It may never be enough, but ultimately it’s all they have.

This time, Michael thinks he can live with that.

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: November 5th, 2013 01:19 pm (UTC)

It was completely my pleasure and joy to beta this. As always, the action and peril are just wonderful and the h/c delightful! I mean you riddled Billy with bullets and he LIVED! Sure, barely, but still...Just going to do fave parts, probably don't have to, but I SO want to!!!


Fave parts:

He pulls his gun -- it’s just a regular pistol, but Michael’s really a fan of the classics -- and he grapples for the door handle. There’s not much left, and when he pulls the handle, the door nearly falls off altogether, half clanking to the ground.

Which means he doesn’t have much by way of surprise, but at this point, he doesn’t care. Martin just exhausted hundreds of rounds on their car; he’ll be expecting a bullet riddled corpse, so Michael likes his odds.

--it's nice to see Michael in action.

There’s no immediate answer, so Michael ducks his head back inside. The interior is a mess, littered with broken glass and bits of metal and plastic. Billy’s in the seat, still strapped into his seatbelt. He’s sitting up, and when Michael looks at him, the Scot raises lidded eyes to meet his gaze. Billy inhales raggedly, mouth open as if to speak--

There’s no witty comeback, though. No snide reminder about taking too many risks. No quips about the price they pay for the mission.

Instead, blood wells up and leaks down Billy’s chin. It’s a frightening image, made worse when Michael looks his teammate over again.

He doesn’t give Billy a chance to reply, not that the Scot is in any position to do so. But when Michael wraps his arms under Billy’s armpits, the other man gasps. When Michael pulls, gentle but firm, the Scot whimpers, making an inarticulate cry and Michael pulls him from the car and drags him to a clean spot on the ground.

He sort of wonders why he bothered. Because the situation just keeps getting worse. Billy’s a mess, and that’s the nice way of putting it. His shirt is not just drenched, it’s practically shredded. There’s a line of bullet holes across Billy’s chest and stomach, and when Michael looks, he finds another handful of shots on Billy’s arms and legs. There’s a deep graze on his neck. All in all, Michael counts a dozen shots, give or take a few.

A dozen.

Michael’s stomach turns. He’s not a squeamish man, but Billy’s not just been shot; he’s been riddled.

-- You just excel at silencing Billy with maximum effect. Hee!! And I SO LOVE it when you do!! It's blood curdling good, pun intended.


Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 25th, 2013 08:12 pm (UTC)
billy likes

I seem unable to keep myself from hurting him so badly that he has to be silent. But I'm very glad that you still manage to enjoy it despite that!

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: November 7th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
More Fave parts

Had to add a few more:

Just that fast, Casey turns on him, grabbing his soiled shirtfront with his fist and shaking Michael fiercely. His face is contorted with rage as he stares at Michael with nothing short of pure animosity. “You aren’t going to say that,” he snarls. “Because if Billy’s dead, then someone is going to die at my hand in compensation, and I really would prefer it not to be you.”

Michael blinks, genuinely surprised.

“So shut up,” Casey growls, shaking Michael again. “Shut up and be the damn team leader we need you to be.”

Their eyes are locked, and as Michael’s widen with surprise, Casey’s are unyielding. After several moments of tense silence, Casey eases his grip, releasing Michael and stepping away.

“We do the job,” he says flatly. “It sucks, but we do it, and we never accept failure until it’s right in front of us.”

Michael wants to point out that all the blood is a pretty compelling case, but when Casey looks at him again, there’s an exquisite and unspoken pain there.

“Not yet,” he says, softly now. “Not yet.”

-- this was a tremendous scene because it's Casey comforting in his unique way and though it's tough love, you see every bit of vulnerability in him.

She smiles gently. “Shallow or not, your friend has suffered 14 gunshot wounds. That amount of damage will take time to address. It’s going to be a long wait.”

--only Billy could sustain 14 gunshots and be alive. We've both made him a superhero! Hahaha!

The doctor shifts tiredly, then sighs. “I’m sorry.”

-o-

Billy’s not dead, but he may as well be. He lost over half his blood supply, and they aren’t sure they got all the bleeders just yet. Infection is almost going to be a given, and Billy’s body just doesn’t have any fight left. The worst of the bullets tore through one of his lungs, lodging near his heart. Another made a mess of his large intestines.

They don’t think he’ll last the day.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor says again, for whatever that’s worth.

He’s not the only one.

--THUD! And I giggle with glee.

Because Michael’s afraid Billy’s going to die. Michael’s afraid he threw together a plan and trusted his instincts and condemned a good man -- a talented spy -- to death. Michael’s afraid, more than anything, that he’s killed his best friend.

--sob! A good man, killed his best friend? What's not to like? Haha!

Stomach tight, Michael takes Billy’s limp fingers and squeezes them. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, because he’s not sure what else to say. He chokes back a sob. “I’m so, so sorry.”

--*so simple and so moving!!



Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 25th, 2013 08:13 pm (UTC)
Re: More Fave parts
billy watches

I'm so mean to these characters. But they are fun to torment. I know you know that :)

Thank you!

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