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Chaos Fic: Rate Yourself and Rake Yourself

June 13th, 2011 (10:12 pm)
Tags: ,

Title: Rate Yourself and Rake Yourself

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: Another one for eviinsanemonkey , who gave me a Casey centric fic and the song "Little Lion Man" by Mumford and Sons to work with. Much thanks to geminigrl11  for the quick beta to catch the most atrocious of my typos and oversights. Anything that remains is entirely my own, and that goes for the slipshod plot and Casey's utter woobieness in this fic.

Summary: Casey can control all the variables except his own emotions.

 

-o-

Weep for yourself, my man,

You'll never be what is in your heart

Weep Little Lion Man,

You're not as brave as you were at the start

Rate yourself and rake yourself,

Take all the courage you have left

Wasted on fixing all the problems

That you made in your own head

-from "Little Lion Man" by Mumford and Sons

-o-

This is actually how Casey likes it.

Deep uncover, almost entirely cut off. Danger lurking with nothing but his wits and strength to stave it off. It's a lesson in total self-reliance; an exercise in self-discipline and control.

Of course, in his ideal world, Casey is doing such things alone.

Having a Scottish version of the Jolly Green Giant around makes things somewhat less how Casey likes it.

Scratch that, a lot less how Casey likes it. In fact, after being stuck in solitary undercover with Billy Collins for nearly two weeks, Casey is coming to almost hate it.

Maybe hate is too strong of a word. Casey doesn't hate Billy. It's almost impossible to hate Billy. It would be like hating a puppy or scorning a cooing newborn baby. But that doesn't mean the idea doesn't have its moments. Puppies chew the furniture and babies poop.

In that light, maybe Casey's lucky that Billy has a perpetually sunny demeanor and an incessant need to talk.

Talk about the weather. Talk about the locals. Talk about the food. Talk about his flat in London. Talk about anything and everything--except the finer details of how to complete their mission.

There is a time and place for chitchat, and Casey is perfectly fine with that. But this--really isn't one of them. Because they're in remote Nigeria trying to track a group of radical militants suspected of plotting several major strikes at embassies across the continent while simultaneously preventing said militants from figuring out that Casey and Billy are not land surveyors scouting out possible sites for energy plants. Casey knows the only reason they're still alive is that they've tempted the militants with a substantial sum of money, but that carrot is on a pretty short stick and they need to get their intel and get out before this goes south.

And it will go south. It always goes south. Collins or no Collins, things are invariably predisposed to disaster when it comes to espionage.

"You know, it's really remarkable that after a while, you hardly notice the heat," Billy says out of nowhere.

Casey controls the urge to glare at him, instead keeping his attention through his binoculars. "Bodily discomfort is a frame of mind," he says without flinching.

"Sometimes, I might agree," Billy agrees amenably. "Though I would have thought that soul-sucking heat would actually be more of a nuisance."

"The heat is inconvenient," Casey allows. He spares a second to glance at his teammate. "But it's the wildlife you have to watch out for here."

Billy makes a face, swatting at a bug crawling toward him. "If you're referring to the sundry insects and poisonous other sand creatures, I would have to agree," he says. "Did you know I found a scorpion in my bed last night?"

Casey snorts slightly. "You assume I didn't put it there," he mutters.

Billy makes a sound of mock indignation. "Casey Malick! I cannot believe you would stoop so low as to kill me," he quips.

Casey peers over his binoculars. "If I wanted to kill you, you certainly wouldn't still be standing here," he says plainly. He looks back through his binoculars, scanning for any sign of movement on the horizon. "Besides, this is a two person job. Any plans I have for your demise can wait until after we've gotten our intel back to Michael and Rick."

"Oh, come now," Billy cajoles. "I know that behind that rough exterior and grisly demeanor, there's a soft soul just looking to be loved."

"If I wanted love, I would aim hirer than a deported Scotsman with no taste in conversational tactics," Casey says. Then he squinted harder. "And love will have to wait. I think our company is about to arrive."

Straightening, Billy sits up, picking up his own binoculars and pointing them the same direction as Casey's.

The cloud of dust is hard to miss and the black SUV is easily discernible from their earlier contact with the militants.

"You have the papers?" Casey asks.

Billy shuffles around and picks up the file folder, flipping through it. "Supposed land deeds and bank transfer numbers. Once we have an access to their account information, we should be able to track their purchases and effectively shut them down."

That's been the plan since the beginning, and it's a worthwhile one, even if it is a bit monotonous. Michael and Rick have been stationed back in the city with a technological center for backup to provide the fake money transfer, hopefully convincing the militants that all is well with the sale.

It's still a high risk operation, of course, but Casey thinks they've probably handled worse.

"So you think we should offer them champagne when they close the deal?" Billy asks. "They seem big into celebrating their victories."

Casey puts his binoculars aware and glowers at Billy. "You know, you could take this seriously," he says. "These are trained militants who are wanted in connection with a handful of bombings and several dozen deaths."

Billy looks offended. "I'm taking this very seriously," he says. "I prefer the people I negotiate with to be holding fluted glasses instead of automatic weaponry, is all."

"We can't wine and dine these people," Casey tells him. "This is a time to shut up, focus, and get the job done."

"We're energy consultants," Billy reminds him. "Ones who are about to make the deal of a lifetime, I might add."

"Who might end up dead if they don't learn when to shut their mouths and take the situation seriously," Casey says tersely. "We keep this simple, or is that too much for your small Scottish mind to understand?"

Billy lifts his eyebrows. "Well then," he says. He lifts two fingers to his brow and salutes Casey sardonically. "Aye aye, Captain Malick."

Casey doesn't even bother to grumble--there's not time--as he looks back at the approaching cars.

-o-

Casey knows when they militants come to a stop that this isn't going to go well. To start with, they all pile out of the car, even the driver, which means that they aren't looking for any kind of quick getaway. This suggests that they're not worried about anything going wrong, which might be reassuring if these were straight up kind of people. But for militants who have plotted mass murder, Casey knows it's because they don't intend on leaving loose ends.

Of course, the impressive amount of weaponry the group has so colorfully adorned themselves with is another giveaway. Casey can appreciate making a show of force, but he'd thought they'd passed such pleasantries a few meetings back.

Plus, their contact person is smirking. Some excitement for a multimillion dollar deal might be understandable, but this feels like more than a payday. It feels like a payday with no strings attached because they thoroughly plan on putting a bullet between Casey's eyes and giving Billy a hole to match.

Casey works to keep himself cool despite the obvious impending danger. At his side, Billy remains equally impassive, though one glance at the Scot tells Casey that he senses the danger the same as he does.

And this is where it gets tricky, and where being the human weapon comes into play. Because, yes, he and Billy are minimally armed but when surrounded with trigger happy militants, Casey knows that two pea shooters aren't going to be much of a match. It's going to take cunning, skill, and strength.

Fortunately, Casey is trained in all three.

Which means it's just a question of timing. Casey's first inclination is to let them think they're getting the upper hand. Offer some chitchat, set up the exchange of information. He figures they'll want the information first to save themselves the trouble before killing them outright.

"Bonjour, my friends," Billy says from the passenger seat. His effusion is completely appropriate here, and Casey remembers why Billy's charm is usually an asset in the field, even if it is irritating. "Are we all ready to make some money today?"

Their contact person smiles, and it's a little sadistic, a knowing gleam in his eye.

It's then that Casey realizes that they're not going to wait for the exchange. They're not going to wait at all. They're going to kill them now, before anything can go wrong. Then they'll rob them blind, dump the bodies, and make a quick exit before there's any chance of calling for any type of backup.

It'd be effective if he and Billy were land surveyors.

Less so since they're highly trained CIA operatives.

To Billy's credit, he's still talking. "We have all the paperwork in order," he stalls.

Casey shifts his hand into his jacket casually, feeling the grip of his pistol and wrapping his finger around the trigger.

Billy waves the file folder wildly. "A few signatures, and we're done!"

That's the cue Casey needs. He pulls his gun out, moving as he does. He takes down one, two, before throwing open the door and swinging his legs out to take out another.

He doesn't have to look to know that Billy is doing the same, and the barrage of return fire is almost instantaneous.

It's dicey now, but this is where Casey thrives. He keeps his mind alert, aware of all variables while focusing in on the most viable. He takes down the fourth with his gun before incapacitating another with a chop and an eye gouge. He's snapping the arm of a fifth, when he hears the footfall behind him and he realizes that maybe he's overestimated his position.

Because one by one, they're going down, but it only takes one stray to end his progress. He can't kill them both in this position and he braces himself for what he's sure will be an inevitable impact.

It doesn't come.

He downs the attacker in front of him, taking a second to shoot the one coming up after that. He turns, to get his bearings, and sees the dead militant right behind him.

This is where having a teammate on hand is useful, no matter their nationality or predisposition to talking.

It's less useful when said teammate is too busy covering his six to fend off the militant on his own flank. Casey doesn't even have time to warn Billy when the knife goes in. Billy staggers, face draining of color. One hand grapples for his side and when the militant pulls the knife free with a self-satisfied smirk, Billy just crumples to the ground.

And Casey sees red--then more red and more red and more, until the job is done entirely.

-o-

Casey's used to being in the zone, so to speak. Being the human weapon requires a singular kind of focus; this is why the distractions of lovers and teammates can be so dangerous. If he's not focused 100 percent on the task at hand, something can go wrong. Casey can control all the variables except his own emotions.

This is why he never made it work with Linda. This is why Billy is so hard to work with sometimes. Distractions. They make him less than perfect, no matter how much he needs them. It's been easier at the ODS. With four of them, Casey can trust each person has control of his own part and focus on the checks and balances of a team to cover them all out in the end. A partnership is less so, because while there is backup, it's always at a cost.

He wasn't willing to pay that cost with Linda.

He doesn't want to think he may have paid it with Billy.

Still, there Casey is. The last man standing. The militants are dead or dying--Casey doesn't care which--and Billy's on the ground as still as the rest of them.

It's not over yet, though. Casey doesn't know how to admit defeat. He's never had to. And he's not about to start now.

In a few quick steps, he closes the distance, falling to his knees next to Billy, pushing him carefully on to his back. Billy's eyes fluttered and he gasps with pain, swallowing hard against it.

"Hey," Casey says, as soothingly as he can. "Just take it easy."

Billy blinks rapidly, eyes flicking back and forth. "That feels rather horrific," he says.

Casey grimaces, looking down to the growing stain of blood at Billy's side. "That's because you let someone carve you up like a Thanksgiving turkey."

"I've never understood how the slaughter of an innocent bird equals celebration," Billy says, chest heaving. He hisses in pain as Casey starts to rip the fabric away. "You Americans have such a strange way about your festivities."

"Because sometimes we prefer to spend time with our loved ones and having the capability to remember it the next day?" Casey quips, peeling back the layers of Billy's clothes as best he can.

"Why, Casey," Billy croons, his body tensing as Casey gets closer. "Does that imply that you have loved ones with which you wish to spend time?"

Casey glowers at him, but doesn't take his eyes off the wound. "That's just in theory," he says dryly, getting a good look at the wound for the first time. The rip in the flesh is small, though somewhat jagged. It's leaking blood quickly--dark and thick--which means that the wound is deep and has likely hit something moderately vital. Gauging from the position in Billy's side, Casey can only assume that it's nothing imminently deadly, though nicking any internal organ will inevitably lead to a bleed that Casey can't control, no matter how impressive a bandage he can muster up.

In short, Billy's bleeding out. Fast or slow, it's really relative at the moment, considering just how far out they are and how little Casey can do.

Billy convulses a little, as if trying to squirm away from the pain. "As far as theories go, I rather like it," he says. He nods to himself. "It's one I may keep for awhile until overwhelming evidence proves it false."

It's a joke, of course. Casey knows this routine well. It's part of the ODS communication strategy. It's part coping mechanism, part total denial, and it's always served them well. Billy jokes and Casey is supposed to gripe back. It's harmless and good-natured.

And Casey doesn't know if he can.

Because Billy is dying for having Casey's back, and Casey knows that's how it's supposed to work, but he still doesn't know how to accept it. Doesn't know how to grapple with any kind of impending failure.

Mostly, Casey doesn't know how to look Billy in the eye and offer him a quip and a jibe knowing it could be the last thing he ever says to the man.

But what else could he possibly say? What could he possibly tell Billy to summarize how he feels?

Casey doesn't know.

Instead, he refuses to believe it.

Pulling off his jacket, Casey rips at it harshly until it comes off in strips. Wadding one piece, he pushes it hard against Billy's side, ignoring the gasp of pain it elicits. Casey doesn't even flinch as he uses another strip to wrap tightly around Billy's torso, repeating the process several times until the bandage is tight and secure.

There are tears in Billy's eyes now, and his entire body is trembling. He wets his lips, chin quivering just slightly. "A simple let it drop would have sufficed," he says, voice strained and breathy.

"As if you would have listened," Casey says.

"A point I'll remember for the future," Billy assures him.

"You better," Casey tells him stonily. "Now, I'd like to tell you this is going to get easier-"

Billy grimaces, face paling somewhat. "I've been in this job long enough to know that nothing is ever easy," he says. His lips quirk into a small smile. "Not even dying."

Casey hoists him up, pulling Billy's taller frame up against him and ignoring Billy's cry. "That would be true," he says. "If you were dying."

"Ah, Casey," Billy says with a gasping inhalation as he staggers next to Casey. "You've become an optimist!"

Supporting most of Billy's weight, Casey grunts as he drags them both to the car. Foisting Billy inside unceremoniously, he says, "I promise you, it's temporary."

Marginally upright in the Jeep, Billy attempts a smile. "Then I shall cherish it while it lasts."

Casey just rolls his eyes, moving around toward the driver's seat. He pauses long enough to strip the leader of his pack, sifting through it to confirm that it had the paperwork he wanted. He can't be sure it's everything, but when it comes to priorities, sometimes the two percent beat the 98 no matter how much Casey would like to reason otherwise.

After all, leads come and go. Cases go cold and get hot again. The nature of the spy game was continually renewing itself.

Human life is not nearly so resilient. Casey has killed enough people to know that to be fact.

Tossing the papers in the back, Casey starts the car. He looks to Billy, who is still slumped, face barely composed in the passenger's seat. "You think you can sit there and be quiet this time?" he asks roughly.

Billy nods tightly, one hand sitting over the bloody bandage that Casey purposefully refuses to look at. "I think I can manage this time around," he says.

Casey nods abruptly. "Good," he says, putting the car into gear. "Because I need you to hold on. This may get a little bumpy."

-o-

Casey has many skills, but driving has never been his forte. Of course, he can drive, and he can drive rather well. He can provide a competent tail and his evasive maneuvers will usually suffice. But it's always been a skill he's trusted to other people, which he's never regretted until now.

The roads this far out are bad, uneven and littered with pot holes. The only good news is that there's virtually no one else on the roads, so as Casey keeps one hand on the wheel as he swerves to keep them on track, he is at little risk of hitting something.

He keeps the other hand on his teammate. It's a reckless move, but Casey feels it's necessary. Because quality bandage aside, the only thing that's going to keep Billy alive is pressure--and a lot of it.

So he drives, one hand white knuckled on the wheel, the other pressed hard into Billy's side. Billy endures the pressure, his face twisted with pain that he never gives voice to, no matter how hard Casey swerves the car.

The first ten miles, Casey doesn't really remember to breathe. Between watching the road and casting glances at Billy, it's all he can do to just keep them going forward.

After fifteen miles, when Casey looks over, Billy's expression is duller now, eyes heavy.

"Hey," Casey calls out. "You need to stay with me."

"Haven't gone anywhere," Billy muses.

Casey jostles him hard.

Billy yelps, tenses against it. "Isn't it customary to treat injured parties better than normal?"

"Only if you're preparing for their funeral," Casey snaps back.

Billy's eyes blink slowly, his head lolling a little.

"Hey," Casey says again, stronger this time as he jolts Billy even harder. "You need to start talking and don't stop until we get there."

Billy is crying now, silent tears down his face, but he breathes through it anyway. "I thought you wanted me to shut up," he says.

It's a joke, but it still hits Casey deep. Because it's true. Casey did say that and worse, he meant it. He wanted Billy to shut up, and now Billy might shut up forever, and all Casey can think is how much he'd miss the rambling, pointless as it is, if he never hears it again.

Casey can pretend to be impenetrable. He can train and he can detach himself from most luxuries and conveniences in life. But he's still a human, no matter how much of a weapon he turns himself into. He can't turn his emotions off, no matter how much he pretends he can.

Throat tight, Casey turns burning eyes back to the road. "And you're going to start listening to me now?" he asks, voice rough like gravel.

Billy actually laughs at that, choked as it may be. "I'm speechless; Casey Malick has a heart," he says.

Casey looks over and meets his eyes.

Billy's smile is tired. "Just proves, there's a first for everything."

"Yeah, well," Casey growls, still pressing hard against Billy's side. "You'd better live to see if we can find a second for everything, too."

-o-

Casey knows that cliches are well worn phrases that people offer because they're easier than the truth. The truth is often harsh and complicated, but Casey also knows that people like cliches best when the truth is simple and impossible to ignore.

And Casey knows the simple and undeniable truth. It's a bright red truth, slick on his fingers and staining the seat of the Jeep as Casey races back toward civilization and hope.

The truth is that Billy's dying. Casey can drive faster, he can put more pressure, he can badger Billy to keep talking, but he knows in the cold, analytical part of his mind that there is a chance that it may not be enough.

There may even be a good chance.

This truth is too harsh and simple to even come close to making sense, and Casey refuses to accept it.

The Jeep hits a particularly hard pothole and Billy groans, body bucking weakly against Casey's hand. "At this point, a little more blood won't matter, will it?" he asks, almost sounding hopeful.

Casey spares him a glance. Billy's face is wan now, skin almost eerily translucent. It's a clear struggle for him to keep his eyes open and Casey grits his teeth and bears down harder. "At this point, a little more blood is more important than ever," he says. Glancing at the road and swallows hard and finds the cliche he needs. "Besides, you're going to be fine. As long as you stop whining."

Billy laughs a little at that. "You're a liar, Casey," he says wryly, lips twisted in a pained smile.

"Oh, I'm the liar?" Casey accuses. "You have the skill of providing half truths down to a science."

"Aw, come on now," Billy says. "That's what makes a spy a spy."

"Not with your friends," Casey tells him curtly, looking at Billy with hard eyes.

Billy flinches under the look, smiling fading. "Lies of omission," he says, shaking his head. "Surely not that great of sin."

"Maybe not a sin, but it makes it impossible to know what's real with you," Casey tells him, and he doesn't know why. Doesn't know why it matters, now or any time. Billy's choices regarding his personal self-expression are his own, and Casey's never questioned his ability to be his backup. But it occurs to him as he's keeping Billy's blood in his body, that there's still a lot about the Scotsman that he may never really know.

Of course, Casey realizes that he's also never really asked.

This is how they are. Living day in and day out, giving everything they have to each other while always holding the most important things back. Casey believes this is the way to avoid attachments, but now, it seems like maybe they've all missed the point.

He doesn't want the only people he can call friends to die being strangers.

He doesn't want his friends to die at all.

The ODS--Billy, Michael, and Rick--these are the people he cares about most on this earth and Casey's been so busy trying not to acknowledge that he feels anything for them that he may lose them without ever even realizing what it's like to be close to them at all.

In the passenger's seat, Billy brow works. He breaths, harsh and stuttered. "You're right," he says, and his voice is so quiet that for a moment, Casey thinks he's misheard him.

"What?" Casey asks.

Billy nods slightly, eyes gleaming now. "You're right," he says again, louder than before. "It's all an act. If I'm friendly with everyone then I think maybe it won't matter that I don't know how to have real friends. If they saw the real me, no one would want to get any closer."

Casey scoffs. "That's ridiculous."

But Billy shakes his head, adamant now. "It's true," he says. "I don't know how you do it. Always strong and sure, never a second thought or self doubt."

"It's not like that," Casey tells him, feeling desperate now. He keeps his eyes on the road, refusing to even blink.

"You said it yourself," Billy continues. "After six years, you don't even know me."

The words are harder coming back at him, because this isn't Billy's fault. Casey's never wanted to know beyond the cursory curiosities. He prefers his truth to be selected and eclectic, enough for interesting conjecture but easy to avoid any real depth. But he still knows Billy. He knows Billy even when he refuses to acknowledge it, even when he pretends harder than he should that he doesn't.

And now, here they are. Billy bleeding out and confessing everything, asking how Casey does it. How Casey is so strong and sure, and Casey's never felt so weak and uncertain in his life.

He shakes his head and fights against the lump in his throat. He looks at Billy squarely, hand still stiff in Billy side. "I know what matters," he says, willing Billy to believe him. After all this time, to believe this one truth among the lies.

Billy blinks his tired blue eyes. "Do you?"

Casey bears down and nods. "I know you're annoyingly happy because you think that's what people expect from you," he starts, the truth feeling clunky on his tongue. "I know you use a facade of friendliness to manipulate people into doing what you want without them even having a clue. I know you can talk about anything except the things that matter to you." His voice is gaining strength and it's threatening to choke him, but Casey refuses to give in. He looks at Billy again fully. "I know that you joke about being deported, but it's the one thing you've never really recovered from, no matter what else has happened--good or bad--since."

Billy hold his gaze for a moment then manages a smile. "Well, present situation considered, maybe not the only thing," he quips.

Casey's heart aches, and he shoves his hand with force into Billy's side. "You can't think like that. This is nothing. A scratch."

"And yet they've made worms' meat of less," Billy says lightly, his voice drifting slightly.

Casey feels his emotion ratchet higher, and when he opens his mouth, he's almost yelling. "And you've been through worse," he says shortly. "Because I know something else about you. I know that you never quit when people are counting on you. Never." He looks at Billy hard and unyielding, making sure the other man can hear him. "And I'm counting on you now."

The beat that follows is pregnant and dangerous. It's the most honest Casey has ever been, and it's the closest he's ever come to expressing a real connection to another human being. It's a scary, vulnerable thing, and he practically dares Billy to defy him now.

Billy's face is taut, strained with pain, but the tears in his eyes are more than agony. For once he doesn't say anything, but he doesn't have to, because Casey knows it already.

He's known it all along.

This is the way of teammates, partners. Of friends.

Admitting that is a little freeing, but it comes with the terror of knowing that it could be gone any second.

With fresh determination, Casey turns his eyes back to the road, pushing harder on the accelerator as he careens down the road toward a hope he may finally be desperate enough to need.

-o-

By the time they arrive at the hospital, Billy is unconscious. His tall form is slumped in the seat, head bobbing forward with the ragged momentum of the Jeep.

He should call Michael. They're due for a check in soon anyway, and Michael would want to know. But Casey wouldn't even know what to tell him. He can't bring himself to say the words out loud, even though the truth of it all is weighing heavily within him.

The fact is, hospital or not, Billy might still die. The blood loss, the internal injuries, the overall risk of infection--Casey's done everything he can and it may not be enough. May not even be close.

-o-

Casey has been a spy long enough to know that sometimes the most critical element of a mission is the wait time involved. Waiting for a lead to show itself, waiting for a trail to evolve. These are the tedious parts of the job, but Casey accepted them a long time ago as necessary evils.

He's a consummate spy in his ability to wait. He can wait for weeks for a mark to make one wrong move and take them down. He can keep himself utterly still for hours just to be poised and ready for a surprise attack.

But when he's waiting with a colleague's blood on his hands...

It's all Casey can do to stay composed.

The hospital is decently comfortable, and the orderly nature of the nurses does provide him with some assurance. Still, all Casey can do is sit in the waiting room and hope for good news, and the inactivity is killing him. Sometimes, he still considers calling Michael, but his cell phone is off in his pocket, and Casey can't bring himself to change that. Not until he knows for sure. Casey can give a good report or a bad report, but he's not sure how to deliver one with the ambiguity he's feeling now.

It's surreal to think that Billy could die. After all they'd been through together, after how hard Casey had fought to get him here--it could all be for nothing. There's a chilling reality in that thought that Casey can't shake, no matter how hard he tries.

And now he has to sit there. With nothing to do except to think about the things he could have done, the things he should have done.

And that look on Billy's face. The pale lines of pain, the drooping eyelids. The way his voice got softer and softer, his words clipped and stunted by the end. Casey's own heart rate speeding up in desperation as Billy's had continued to falter.

It still makes Casey's stomach turn. The smell of Billy's blood, the way he shifted with pain the harder Casey pressed. And his eyes. Just staring at him, open and honest even as the life ebbed away. By the end, Billy had had no guises left. All of his pretenses had been gone. When Billy had asked how Casey managed to live so sure and confident, it hadn't been idle conversation. He had really wanted to know.

Casey hadn't answered, because Casey isn't sure how to explain it. He's not sure how to give voice to the way he turns off the connection between his brain and his heart. He might say it's a question of mind over matter--that human emotions can be as easily honed as anything else--but that would be a lie. He can ignore his emotions, but he can't change them, and when he's the most scared is when he needs to turn them off the most.

Ultimately, he's still fallible. He's completely vulnerable. The reason he's not scared of risking his own life is because he'd rather lose his own than lose the ones of the people around him. Casey can face his own death without flinching, but the fear of losing someone close to him is almost paralyzing.

This is why he likes to work solo. This is why he shuns messy entanglements. The more people have to lose, the more of a risk they are in the field.

This is why being a spy was a natural choice for him. No attachments necessary, no honesty required. Of course, that had been before Linda and why he'd run from her after two years, scared as ever. He should have known better to think that he could make it this long at the ODS without the same possibly devastating attachments.

Casey has known this all along, but he's pretended not to. He's let himself believe that it's different, that he can still be the operative he needs to be, but he's wrong. This is all a carefully composed facade, a front he's put up for years and years until he almost believed it was true. This idea that he doesn't care, that he doesn't have to care--when he cares just as much as the rest of them, maybe even more. Casey doesn't know how to be vulnerable in this and still stay strong in the field. He doesn't know, so he hasn't tried.

Maybe he should have, though. Because it's moments like these, when the blood of the people he cares about is on his hand, when there's nothing he can do but wait, that he knows that no training or self control can ultimately make a difference. Sometimes, he's just as helpless as a civilian, just as green as Rick, just as needy as Billy, just as paranoid as Michael. Sometimes, he's just a guy who has run away from every meaningful relationship in his life, trying to break it off before it breaks him off, one way or another.

Casey's lived a life of varying degrees of tragedy. He thought depriving himself of an identity could strip away the emotions from his heart, but he can see now how wrong he was. Billy talks to cover the things he doesn't know how to say; Casey stays silent because he's worried that if he lets himself start, he won't know how to stop at all. The reality of such a half-lived life may seem like well-honed bravery, but Casey understands it as the tragedy of cowardice.

The fact is that Casey has been so afraid of losing a happier ending that he's fought valiantly for something mediocre. His tragedy is self imposed, and that makes it even more tragic even in Casey's stunted eyes.

Leaned forward in the chair, Casey feels the weight of age and the weariness of loneliness on his shoulders. He doesn't look at the clock; doesn't pick up his phone. He closes his eyes, elbows on his knees, and doesn't dare move until he knows for sure which way this story ends.

-o-

The doctor speaks in stunted English, but Casey still gets the point. He got it the second the doctor came to talk to him, read it easily in the tired lines of relief in his face.

Unfortunately, his language skills are not adept enough to stop the doctor from attempting to explain the full extent of the situation.

Casey listens with as much patience as he can muster after the night he's just had. "He's going to be okay?" he asks tiredly, after the doctor finally pauses in his hard-to-follow litany of injuries and procedures.

The doctor smiles readily, seemingly happy for an easy question to answer. "Yes, yes, I think so," he says. "We'll have to keep him to monitor and continue a round of antibiotics, but his are very good, I think."

Casey thanks him in a perfunctory manner and leaves before the man can try to inundate him with other irrelevant details. The fact is, Casey knows what he needs to, and he finally pulls out of his phone.

Ignoring the missed calls, Casey hits the speed dial for Michael, who answers on the second ring.

"Where are you?" Michael demands.

Casey wets his lips and forces himself to breath. "The hospital," he says. He can hear Michael taking a breath to ask for more, but Casey preempts him. "Things got a little rough at the meet, but we still got the mission done. Billy's a little worse for wear, but it's going to be okay."

Casey feels the words, breathes the words, believes the words as they settle with relief throughout his body. He swallows hard and pretends not to notice the sting of tears behind his eyes. "We're both going to be okay."

-o-

As much as Casey likes the tension of a mission to keep him on his toes, he's actually lying when he says it's his favorite part. Yes, he likes the feeling of adrenaline through his veins. He likes the utter focus that it requires as the rest of the world and its difficulties just fall away to greater and more important things.

But there's no way it compares to this: sitting in the aftermath, glowing in the resolution of ecstasy, knowing that it was a job well done.

Normally, Casey basks in his own sort of way. He likes to tut a little and acts like success was never in question, even when it was. He likes to settle in with his team back in the office, sitting down with a gruff sigh to check his email like that's the most important thing in the world and the mission was just a detour.

It's different, then, to be seated in Billy's hospital room, but the steady rhythm of Billy's heartbeat is the only victory he needs for the time being, and Casey's more than content to sit and dwell on that for as long as he can.

Michael and Rick have come and gone. Casey handed over the intel, letting Michael do with it what it will. Rick will have to spend some time translating, no doubt, and Michael says that they need to head back to the motel to check in with Langley.

There's truth to that, of course, but like most things in their line of work, it's incomplete. Casey can see that Michael wants to stay--that Rick wants to even more--but somehow Michael knows that this is a victory for Casey alone and he is willing to let him have his privacy in that.

Billy doesn't move through the night, but Casey can read his vitals well enough to know they're holding steady. In the morning, the nurse changes the bandage and Casey catches a glimpse of the wound, with an angry red line covered with taut stitches over the pale skin of his torso. As if Casey needs a reminder of how much he almost lost.

By mid morning, Billy's showing signs of waking up, and Casey tries to compose himself. Most of the time, he can shove back the feelings and uncertainties in the aftermath, but it feels different this time. The things they said, the truths they revealed--it's just different, and Casey realizes that he's almost as scared of Billy waking up as he is of the other man never waking up at all.

Like most things in this mission, though, it's not his choice in the end. Billy wakes up with tired blue eyes and it's probably no surprise that the first thing he tries to do is talk.

"I thought I told you to be quiet," Casey jokes jadedly, but he stands to offer Billy a sip of water from the glass by his bed anyway.

Billy drinks with a wince and looks gratefully back up at Casey. "We made it," he says, a little disbelieving.

Casey settles back in his seat. "I told you we would," he says, as if that should have been reason enough.

Billy's lips turn up in a smile. "You did indeed," he concedes. "But you might be able to forgive my doubts as I was losing copious amounts of blood."

Casey rolls his eyes. "Details," he says. "I had it entirely under control."

Billy nods, still a little bemused. "All things considered, I really do owe you a thank you."

Casey shrugs stiffly. "It was simple," he says, trying to believe the lie. "Basic first aid procedure and adept driving skills."

Billy's smile turns ever so slightly shy. "It seemed like a lot more than that at the time, anyhow," he admits.

"And so begins your random spewing again," he says.

"Not random," Billy contends. He hesitates. "I mean, I remember it all, you know."

It's all Casey can do not to flinch. Even so, he gets very still in his seat, eyeing Billy with caution. "That's highly unlikely," he says.

Billy wets his lips, trying to adjust himself in the bed with little success. "I remember the car ride," he says. "And being thankful that a car accident probably wouldn't have done more significant damage considering my state."

Casey glowers. "It wasn't that bad."

Billy lifts one eyebrow slightly. "And I remember your lovely bedside manner," he says. "A fist punching through my side was not the most pleasant experience in my life."

It's a memory that Casey still carries, too, more vividly than Billy ever could. "Better than having all your blood on the seat," he reminds Billy pointedly, hoping his biting dry humor will disguise any lingering fears he still can't quite shake.

If Billy notices, however, he doesn't call Casey on it. Instead, his jaw works, brow furrowed. "And I remember the things I said," he says, almost looking sheepish. He looks up at Casey, his head still turned down in hesitation. "I know you say I talk too much, and I think maybe you were right in this case. I never should have-"

Casey knows the conversation that is coming. He knows the confessions that they'll both have to make. And Casey knows that if he lets them go there, he'll never be able to come back. He'll be too compromised emotionally with no hope of getting it back on track. This is why he left Linda in the field all those years ago, and he doesn't want to leave the ODS behind. Not yet, maybe never.

This is why he still can't admit the things that he knows to be true. This is why they still have to return to the status quo. This is why they have to be careful friends, measured in their responses and select in the things they talk about. Some things still need to be unspoken if they're going to survive this job, and Casey knows instinctively that this conversation is one of those things.

He shakes his head, determined on this. "Just don't," Casey says, face scrunching up in what he hopes looks like annoyance.

Billy's face goes blank, eyes wide. He shakes his head, confused. "I just wanted to explain-"

Casey glowers tersely for effect. "You were in shock and about to go into hypovolemia," he says, as if explaining it so plainly could make it less terrifying than it actually was. "It's not like you had any control of what you were thinking or saying at that point."

Billy doesn't seem convinced. "But, still-"

"But nothing," Casey says, his voice hard and definitive. "What happens in the field, stays in the field, do you understand?"

Billy is looking at him intently, and for a long moment, Casey worries Billy will disagree with him. It's hard to shut Billy down for once, but Casey knows it has to be this way. He can't admit just how scared he'd been or how much more he still wanted to say, but it would ruin everything they've all worked so hard to build.

Billy seems to get it, though, and his face morphs with a smile. "Aye-aye, captain," he says, offering up the same, silly mock salute for good measure.

Casey hides his relief with a patented roll of his eyes. This is what they do. This is what's comfortable. But there's still something more to it now, something he can't quite trace, but he trust Billy feels it, too.

And it's enough for both of them to not talk about it again if they can help it. Some habits die hard, but not all silence is cowardice. Sometimes it's just that the things that matter are best left unspoken, and if that's a lesson that Billy can understand, then Casey is sure it's one he can take to heart as well.

It's enough. Maybe not for always, but for today, it's enough. Trust is a tenuous thing amongst spies; deeper relationships are almost impossible. They've both tread on uneven ground and on the flip side, they're looking to regain their footing any way they can.

"Now just hurry up and get better, Collins," Casey says, pushing back in his chair in a display of well honed irritation. "I'd like to get out of here before I contract malaria from one of the rampant mosquitoes."

"I'll do what I can," Billy assures him earnestly.

Casey sighs with melodramatic flair. "I'm sure you will," he says, tilting his chair back against the wall as he closes his eyes and pretends to sleep.

 

Comments

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: June 14th, 2011 12:23 pm (UTC)

This is so, so perfect. Just. *flail* Casey! <3 and BILLY! OMG! I love it. It's so intense and the characters are so right and omg.

and I love Casey's lived a life of varying degrees of tragedy. and not all silence is cowardice. and, well, the whole thing really.

Thank you so much!

(and you're up :D)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 14th, 2011 12:44 pm (UTC)
CHAOS team

I'm honestly relieved you like it okay. When I was writing it, I was like ack! What am I doing to Casey?! And then proceeded to flail and worry about it :)

Still, it was actually a really fun prompt to work with :)

(I've been debating between two different prompts, one of which is more h/c based. But since I just wrote something heavy on the h/c, I'll prompt you with this one: Billy and his guitar. Because how much did I love him singing with the guitar this week? A lot!)

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: June 14th, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)

:)

(ooh, guitar...mmm this means I'll have to rewatch that scene a hundred times..which I'm okay with)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 14th, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
billy approves

(Rewatching is definitely necessary...for research and all :) I may even have to rewatch it more myself just to mentally prepare myself...)

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: June 15th, 2011 02:36 am (UTC)

and here you are :)

Posted by: lukadreaming (lukadreaming)
Posted at: June 14th, 2011 09:00 pm (UTC)
Billy

I really enjoyed this -- it's intense and angsty and captures the characters perfectly. I'm usually a dyed-in-the-wool slash fan, but I think here the complex and dark relationship between them works much better!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 14th, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
billy earnest

I still worry my Casey was too angsty, so I'm glad the characters worked for you. I usually lean toward friendships over romance, but the prompt said that a leaning toward Casey/Billy would be preferred, so I worked as much ambiguity in there as my gen-based mind could :)

Thanks!

Posted by: smokeygirl19 (smokeygirl19)
Posted at: June 15th, 2011 07:02 am (UTC)

Nice story! Enjoyed it!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 15th, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
chaos team 2

Thank you!

Posted by: The Headkicker (tekiclutch)
Posted at: June 26th, 2011 09:40 am (UTC)

Wow, I can't believe I missed this earlier. Very well done - and very intense! :O

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 26th, 2011 12:35 pm (UTC)
CHAOS team

Thanks :) I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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