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Chaos fic: Live Like You're Dying (1/1)

January 23rd, 2014 (05:57 am)
cranky
Tags: , ,

feeling: cranky

Title: Live Like You’re Dying

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: Random ficlet that probably doesn’t hold its weight but I sort of like it anyway. Beta thanks to sockie1000. Set preseries. It’s not a death fic.

Summary: "I'm sorry," the doctor says. "There's nothing we can do."



-o-

Billy gets the diagnosis a month before he leaves the UK. He sees a private doctor, using an alias, because he knows better than to make anything official until he's ready. He's had these nagging chest pains, and sometimes his heart skips a beat, so he thinks maybe he's got a lingering case of a chest cold or maybe some hypertension.

When the films come back, however, there's a mass -- large an inoperable, wrapped around his aorta.

"I'm sorry," the doctor says. "There's nothing we can do."

Billy blinks at it, stares at it blankly, trying to understand the implications. "But...," he looks for the words and fails. He's a spy; he's faced death and peril and everything else. Nothing scares him like this. His brow creases. "Am I dying?"

"You have four, maybe five months," the doctor says. "Maybe a year. Again, I'm so, so sorry."

Billy thinks he's not the only one.

-o-

He takes the name for a referral back home with him and tucks it into his bag. He thinks about calling -- to see if radiation or chemotherapy might help -- but ultimately he's got a mission to go on.

And if he's going to die, he's going to do this first.

-o-

It's supposed to be a simple mission, in and out. But Billy sees a chance, an opportunity. His team leader tells him its too risky, Billy will get himself killed. It's an order.

Billy doesn't care.

-o-

He comes back alive, against all odds. It's a bit intoxicating until his boss catches wind of how many protocols he broke. Too many to count; too many to justify. His boss throws a stack of citations at him, each more serious than the last. It's meant to scare Billy into contrition, but it's nowhere near the scariest thing Billy's seen recently.

Not even the pink slip and deportation notice can come close.

-o-

He packs just one bag, sorting through his favorite shirts and ties, taking a few of his best books. He hesitates at the card for an oncology referral, wondering if it's worth dealing with now. Even if not these doctors, maybe others.

Maybe.

Billy remembers the weight of the diagnosis. The horror of hearing his life reduced to months.

Then he remembers what it felt like to be in the field, being a spy, all the consequences be damned.

He leaves the card on the counter in his flat, walks away and never looks back.

-o-

At the CIA, Billy starts to live. He flirts with anyone who will look twice, and he doesn't hesitate to volunteer for things. He makes friends; he makes enemies. He does anything his team needs, no questions asks.

After Billy waltzes unarmed into a meeting with a drug lord and talks everyone down with a wink and a smile, Casey pulls him aside.

"That was, by far, the stupidest thing I have ever seen," Casey scolds. "Do you have a death wish?"

Billy grins. "To the contrary," he says. "I've never wanted to live more."

-o-

Four months pass. Then five. At six, Billy takes his new mates out for a drink and keeps buying rounds late into the night.

"Is there a reason for this sudden generosity, kid?" Carson asks, even as he knocks back another one.

Billy laughs, picking up his latest drink and holding it aloft. "To mates, to work, to fighting the good fight," he says. "To living."

They all drink together.

-o-

Six months becomes a year. At his yearly physical, the doctor asks if there's anything he needs to share, any additional tests that need to be done. Billy shakes his head.

"Nothing comes to mind," he lies.

Because he knows he may get lucky with his blood work, but one chest x-ray will undo him. It will end his career.

It will end his life.

Billy's had enough death sentences for one lifetime.

Instead, he smiles broadly. "I've never felt better in my life."

This much, at least, is the absolute truth.

-o-

One year becomes two. Sometimes he wonders what happened. Sometimes he wonders if he dreamed the entire thing. Sometimes he wonders if he's held off his fate by pure determination alone.

He doesn't know.

He reckons he doesn't want to find out.

-o-

Three years after his diagnosis, Billy feels a new pain in his chest. It clenches so tight he nearly doubles over, gasping for air. His hands go numb, his legs tingling. This is it, he thinks. This is it.

But then an explosion rocks the warehouse behind him, and Billy stops thinking all together.

-o-

When he wakes up, he's in a hospital bed. Everything hurts, and he feel weak and broken. When he tries to shift, he's not quite successful and as he groans Michael's face comes into view.

"Hey," he says. "Easy."

Billy tries to move again, tries to speak. He moistens his lips, trying to speak around the pressure in his chest. "Am I dying?"

Michael's face screws up, confused. "No," he says. "You have a few broken ribs and a concussion. You're going to be fine."

Billy frowns, shaking his head. "But--my chest--"

"Is banged up, but you're okay," Michael says, but he doesn't look reassured. Something is still wrong. Maybe he knows. Maybe he's seen a chest x-ray. Maybe this is it after all. "But Carson..."

Billy stops, his heart almost freezing in his chest.

Michael takes a ragged, determined breath. "I'm sorry," he says. "We lost Carson."

The bottom falls out all over again.

-o-

Billy recovers. Michael comes and goes, somber and focused. Casey shows up from time to time, mostly to glare and look angry. No one talks to him about his chest x-ray. He thinks maybe the doctors are respecting his privacy; they probably assume he has to know. He is dying, after all.

There's no point in talking about that, though. Not when they already have one teammate to bury.

-o-

There's no body, but they all carry the loss with them. The months slip by after that, and sometimes they act the same, but they're different now. Billy realizes his own death isn't as terrifying as the death of those who are close to him.

He also realizes he doesn't get to choose.

-o-

It's been five years, almost to the day. He's been having the pains again, more persistent than before. It makes him ache; it makes him feel old.

He thinks, maybe his time is up.

So when the mission goes south, when his team is on the line, Billy doesn't hesitate.

He doesn't look back at all.

-o-

He wakes up again in a hospital bed. This time, both Casey and Michael are there.

They both look angry.

"What were you thinking?" Michael demands.

"That was unusually stupid, even for you," Casey lectures.

Billy swallows painfully, and sighs. His pretenses feel worn; his fight is depleted. He shakes his head. "I reckoned there wasn't much point in you all risking your lives."

"Why, because you don't matter as much as we do?" Michael asks.

"This martyr crap has to end," Casey seethes.

"No," Billy says. "Because I'm dying."

Michael's face screws up. "You're not dying," he says. "You took a round to the chest, but they think you're going to be fine."

"It's not the gunshot," Billy says, still not sure how they don't know. Michael is listed as his next of kin. The doctors had to have taken a scan. If they opened him up, they had to have seen. They have to know.

Casey just looks angry. "Stop being obtuse--"

Billy shakes his head again. "It's the mass," he says, receiving blank stares. "Around my aorta?"

"What kind of drugs are you on?" Michael asks.

"Surely you saw it," Billy says. "They didn't tell you?"

"They told us everything," Casey says. "You drink too much and eat too much sugar."

"And you have borderline hypertension," Michael says. "Which is why you've been having chest pains."

"How did you know I have chest pains?" Billy asks.

Casey scoffs. "You really think you're hiding anything from us?"

"So wait," Michael says. "You think you have a mass?"

Billy nods dumbly, not sure what to think. "It was diagnosed the month before I left the UK. I was told I had months to live."

Casey snorts. "And you're just telling us this now," he says. "Five years later."

"Well, I didn't want it to be an issue--"

"So you thought you'd run around playing the martyr because you thought you were dying?" Michael asks.

"I am dying," Billy insists. "I saw the x-ray."

Michael huffs, moving over to the paperwork near the door. He rummages around and pulls out an x-ray, holding it up. "This x-ray?"

Billy tries to focus, looking at the shapes and masses.

Looking at the empty space around his heart where the mass had been on the first x-ray.

There's nothing there.

There's nothing.

"You're fine," Michael says, putting it away.

"Aside from your own stupidity," Casey says.

Billy can only gape. He doesn't understand. He doesn't even know how to begin. He's live five years with this weight in his chest, this pressure he can't control, but none of it's been real. He's risked his life; he's been careless and cavalier because he thought he had nothing to lose.

"Oh," he says finally. "Well. That changes things."

-o-

He gets better. He's released. He goes home.

The guys give him some space, and neither talks about what he said in the hospital. Billy can let this go, can pretend like it never happened. His mates will give him that.

But as he sits in his flat, his rented motel room that is nothing like home, he wonders if he's missing something.

He's not dying.

And he's never felt more confused.

-o-

A month passes. Then two. After six, Michael and Casey take him out to the bar and buy him a drink.

After several drinks, Billy grunts. "You two are never loose with your money," he says. "What? Am I dying after all?"

"No," Michael says.

"At least not from a tumor," Casey corrects. "Liver damage..."

Michael shakes his head, cutting him off. "We wanted to get you drunk."

Billy snorts. "Mission successful."

"So then when we tell you that we're making another appointment with a specialist, you won't fight us."

Billy doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. "I thought you said I wasn't dying!"

"You aren't," Michael says.

"We know that," Casey adds. "You, on the other hand--"

"It's a major psychological shift for you," Michael says. "We want you to see a specialist. And then we want you to talk about what it means to live."

"I was living," Billy says incredulously. "I never felt more alive."

"You shouldn't need a death sentence to feel alive," Michael says. "That's a problem."

"That's a big problem," Casey agrees.

Billy's face contorts. "What is a specialist going to do then besides tell me I've been daft for five years?"

"They're going to help you live," Michael says. "This time, no strings--"

"Or masses--" Casey interjects.

"Attached," Michael concludes.

Billy wants to protest. He wants to argue and rage and scream.

Instead, he finishes his drink and drinks another. When he passes out, he doesn't care what happens next.

He just doesn't care.

-o-

When he wakes up, he's back in his flat. There's a card on his table with a name and a number.

Dr. Katrina Shaw, Cardiothoracic Specialist

This time, Billy calls.

-o-

There is no explanation for Billy's misdiagnosis. The best the doctor can speculate is that his films were mixed up with someone else's. She suspects he's had issues with hypertension on and off since then, which is what leads to his intermittent chest pain. It's treatable, though, with a few minor lifestyle changes.

"All things considered," she says, "you should live a long and happy life, Mr. Collins."

Billy hesitates, but finally nods. He thinks of his team, and what they did to get him here. He thinks of Carson and the last five years. He thinks about living without the threat of death. He thinks about his doubts and his reservations and his facades. He thinks about why he holds to them, about the risk of letting them go. He thinks about being free, about being himself, about being whole.

He thinks about life.

Slowly, he smiles. "Thank you," he says. "That is good news indeed."

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2014 04:33 pm (UTC)

This is a great angle! I love the idea that Billy is heroic even recklessly. I especially love that it's Michael and Casey who lecture him about not being a martyr, but also makes him realize that he has to change his mindset, that he isn't living to await death, but now has a team to live for and who will save him. Lovely!!! I've thought about giving Billy an illness, but this is perfect!

Fave part:


Three years after his diagnosis, Billy feels a new pain in his chest. It clenches so tight he nearly doubles over, gasping for air. His hands go numb, his legs tingling. This is it, he thinks. This is it.

But then an explosion rocks the warehouse behind him, and Billy stops thinking all together.

--need I say why I love this?

It's been five years, almost to the day. He's been having the pains again, more persistent than before. It makes him ache; it makes him feel old.

He thinks, maybe his time is up.

So when the mission goes south, when his team is on the line, Billy doesn't hesitate.

He doesn't look back at all.

--ah...there's that heroic streak I know and love so much!!!

After several drinks, Billy grunts. "You two are never loose with your money," he says. "What? Am I dying after all?

--love this!


"It's a major psychological shift for you," Michael says. "We want you to see a specialist. And then we want you to talk about what it means to live."

"I was living," Billy says incredulously. "I never felt more alive."

"You shouldn't need a death sentence to feel alive," Michael says. "That's a problem."

"That's a big problem," Casey agrees.

-- I love that even Casey finds Billy's psychological recklessness as not healthy. Now, that's saying something!


Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 9th, 2014 03:29 am (UTC)
billy bruised

Obviously this isn't close to canon, but it was fun to speculate. And I do love reckless Billy :) And I think elements of it fit him quite well.

Thanks!

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