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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos ficlet: A Drop in the Bucket (1/1)

April 26th, 2014 (08:50 pm)
restless
Tags: , ,

feeling: restless

Title: A Drop in the Bucket

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: Written for and beta’ed by sockie1000. Same old, same old. You all know me by now :)

Summary: They hold true because they always have, not because they always will.



-o-

When the last gunshot goes off, Rick feels the blast as though it's tearing through him. It makes him stagger, and he falls to the ground just out of range and in the cover of the woods, hands curled protectively around his head in abject fear. They're running from criminals, after all. He's been expecting to die since the whole mission went belly up.

Billy stumbles beside him, catching himself on his hands and knees. He's panting, and his face looks worn when he meets Rick's gaze.

"Billy," Rick breathes. "Are you..."

Billy sits back, still within the comfortable cover of the woods. There will be a search party, no doubt, but considering that there's a raid on their compound, there are probably other priorities.

They take a moment to breathe, before Billy nods heavily. "We should go."

Rick blinks and nods. "Yeah," he agrees. "Okay."

He gets clumsily to his feet, hesitating when he sees Billy wince. The Scot grimaces badly by the time he gets his footing, and that's when Rick notices the smears of blood on the ground.

Rick frowns, then sees another drop fall. He looks up, surprised to see Billy pressing a hand to his side. His fingers are red.

Eyes wide, Rick gapes. "Billy--"

Billy shakes his head, pressing his lips together tautly. "No time to fret about that," he says.

"But you've been shot," Rick protests.

"Aye," Billy agrees. "What's another drop in the bucket."

"But--"

"But if we stay here, we'll be caught and killed by criminals or rounded up by local authorities," Billy reminds him gravely. "Running is our only option."

Billy's right. Of course he's right.

"Are you sure?" Rick asks anyway.

Billy tilts his head with a sober smile. "Ask me that in two miles when we make our rendezvous."

With that, Billy starts off, leaving Rick to trail after. It's a pressing thing, he realizes. Running from criminals; keeping a cover; trekking through the woods; a wounded teammate.

Drops in the bucket, indeed.

-o-

Billy's pace is slow, but Rick lets him take point. It's an unspoken thing, and usually Billy's the type who takes the rear, but neither of them have the energy to argue about it now.

Besides, Rick's pretty sure Billy's so set on getting to their destination that he can't think about anything else.

That's okay, though. Rick can take rear guard. Rick can look ahead and look back; he can make sure they're safe. Part of him is afraid that if he moves ahead, he'll look back and Billy will be gone.

Behind him, he can watch Billy’s every move, tracking as his pace slows, noting at the way he stumbles and rights himself against the tree trunks.

Following the drops of blood on the forest floor like a beacon home.

-o-

Billy makes it a mile before his legs give out. He almost catches himself, but Rick is there, holding him up before he can hit the ground. Face pinched and white, he looks half mortified as he struggles against Rick's grip. "I'm fine, I'm fine," he mumbles.

"Billy," Rick says. "You're not fine."

Billy's brow creases in apparent anger. "We have to keep going--"

Billy is fighting him, but he's weaker than he realizes. It takes nothing for Rick to pull his hand away from the wound. When he does, Rick's stomach turns. Billy's entire side is soaked through. "We need to put pressure on this."

"There's no time," Billy objects stridently.

Rick shifts, pushing Billy to the ground. He shrugs out of his outer shirt and pins Billy with a look. "We'll make the time," he says, ripping the shirt effectively into two pieces. He balls up the first and presses it to the wound.

Billy hisses, body tensing as he braces himself against the ground.

Rick looks at him purposefully. "Hold that," he orders.

Billy gives him a disdainful look, but reluctantly lifts his hand to hold it in place.

With the other strip, Rick loops it around Billy's waist, tying it as tightly as he can. Sitting back on his heels, he nods in approval. "There," he says.

Billy looks unsightly, and he swallows with obvious effort. "I feel better already."

"It's better than nothing," Rick says, a bit cross.

Billy chuckles breathlessly, clambering awkwardly to his feet. "And what's another drop in the bucket."

-o-

This time, Billy can't keep the pace. When Rick falls in stride with him, they move silently together. Then, when Billy's face goes translucent and his eyes grow dull, Rick wordlessly positions himself at Billy's side, taking the other man's arm around his shoulder. It's not comfortable, being a human crutch, but Rick has always been willing to do whatever is necessary for his job.

More so, he's discovered, for his team.

-o-

They've got to be close when Billy collapses altogether. Rick's been so focused on the goal, that he doesn't realize Billy's mostly unconscious until he goes down, taking Rick with him. Rick yelps in surprise, and he finds himself under Billy as the Scot blinks dazedly at nothing.

"Billy," Rick says, struggling to get free. "Billy!"

When he gets out, he finds Billy semiconscious. He mumbles something, but Rick can't make it out.

Really, he doesn't have to. The ghostly hue of Billy's skin and the saturated red bandage tell him enough.

"Billy," Rick says, feeling himself start to panic. He reaches up and cups Billy's cheek. "Come on, come on, come on. We're almost there. Billy?"

But Billy's eyes rolls backward and he goes limp, his skin clammy to Rick's touch. This much blood loss, and shock is inevitable.

Shock leads to death.

It's only a matter of time.

Heart pounding, Rick looks back at their path through the woods.

He looks ahead.

Billy's still right. There's only one option.

Run.

They'll run.

Rick grits his teeth and hoists Billy up.

One way or another.

-o-

Billy is heavy, and Rick's shoulders protest under the weight. He has to adjust his grip on Billy's arm and leg, trying desperately to keep the older man balanced precariously across his shoulders. Rick has to move slowly, and the burden has him sweating heavily as he places his feet carefully during this last leg of the journey.

They're so close, though. And even if they weren't, Rick wouldn't stop.

Down his back, Rick can feel the drops of blood, spreading down his shirt until it sticks to his back and starts soaking into his pants.

Rick doesn't stop.

-o-

When he arrives, his head is spinning. He barely knows to stop except Michael is there, hands on his arms while Casey removes Billy from his back. Exhausted, Rick crumples to the ground. "He's been shot," he says, turning his head to see Casey looking Billy over.

"And you?" Michael asks, looking nervously at his shirt.

Rick shakes his head. "Billy's," he says. "It's all Billy's."

Casey looks up grimly. "He's pretty deep into shock," he reports. "We need to go."

Michael nods, helping Rick back to his feet. "You think you can make it a little longer?"

Rick grunts. "I've made it this far."

-o-

Determination aside, Rick all but passes out when they get to the car. He doesn't remember much about the ride, except Michael with his hands clenched so tight on the wheel that his knuckles are white, Casey humming a strangely chipper tune over the sound of the road, and Billy going gray in the backseat.

Another drop in the bucket, Rick tells himself. One of these drops may be the tipping point, but not yet.

He closes his eyes and tells himself that much as a promise: not yet.

-o-

At the hospital, Rick follows his team on numb legs. The nurses want to look him over, but Rick assures them he's fine.

Sitting in the waiting room, he feels anything but.

"It's part of the job," Michael says.

"And Billy always pulls through," Casey adds. "He's too annoying to die."

These are their core truths, the things that make the team work. They hold true because they always have, not because they always will. Someday they may have to face it, and Rick isn't scared of much, but he's scared of that.

-o-

It's not today.

The doctor comes out and tells them Billy's fine. Michael and Casey pretend like they expected it, but Rick can see they're relieved.

When Rick takes a turn by Billy, he stands hesitantly at his side and wonders what to say. Everything seems trite in his head, and nothing seems to make much sense.

So Rick doesn't say anything, but he stands there, watching the steady drip of Billy's IV as the minutes pass.

-o-

When Billy wakes up, it's not a day later. He's groggy, but the transfusions have reversed most of the danger. By midday, the team has fallen back to familiar banter, but Billy tires quickly and Michael and Casey excuse themselves.

Rick wets his lips, suddenly unable to look Billy in the eyes. "I was scared," he says.

"Me, too," Billy agrees coyly.

Rick looks up, shaking his head. "I was really scared."

Billy sobers somewhat, smiling a little sheepishly. "I'm afraid I wasn't much help."

"I'm not blaming you," Rick says. He inhales sharply. "I just...I don't know. I realized for the first time that maybe it wouldn't be enough. That maybe we wouldn't be enough. When you were unconscious, and it was up to me -- I didn't know if I could do it, you know? All those drops in the bucket, and I thought I was going to drop everything."

Billy's lips turned up ruefully. "Lad, all of our buckets are going to overflow at some point."

"So what, then?" Rick asks. "We go out in the field with a death wish?"

"No," Billy says. "We go out knowing that we don't always have to carry our own bucket. When one of us drops it, the rest can pick it up."

"But what if it happens to all of us at once?" Rick persists.

Billy sighs, slumping back onto his pillow. "Then we're going to be too overwhelmed to care, I reckon."

"But--"

"But it's a stupid metaphor," Billy says. "Figurative language is fine for poems and epic stories, but the fact is that this is about teamwork, and nothing more. We made it out, Rick. We'll live to fight another day. Let that be enough, and leave the damn buckets alone."

Rick blinks, surprised.

But then, suddenly, that seems logical.

More than that, it seems right.

He grins. "Okay, I think I can live with that."

"Excellent," Billy says. "Because I am exhausted."

Rick nods, moving toward the door. "We'll be here when you wake up," he promises.

Billy shuts his eyes, smiling slightly. "I wouldn't count on anything less."

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: April 27th, 2014 06:20 pm (UTC)

You know I can't resist Billy h/c. As always, all the right touches, moving angst and inspiration that I just lap up!

Fave part:

"But it's a stupid metaphor," Billy says. "Figurative language is fine for poems and epic stories, but the fact is that this is about teamwork, and nothing more. We made it out, Rick. We'll live to fight another day. Let that be enough, and leave the damn buckets alone."

--you do such a good job of Billy philosophizing in your stories. I love how he absolves Rick. It's so a Billy thing to do.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 12th, 2014 02:34 am (UTC)
billy guitar

Billy h/c just never gets old for me. Never! I'm glad you still enjoy it, too :)

Thanks!

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