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Chaos fic: Trust Can Be Earned

June 16th, 2011 (08:38 am)
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Title:  Trust Can Be Earned

Disclaimer:  Not mine.

A/N:  Because Chaos still seems to own my soul.  Beta’ed by geminigrl11 .  Lots of preseries speculation.

Summary:  Michael wasn’t lying when he said trust could be earned in the Agency.

-o-

When Michael first gets a job at the CIA, he bounces from assignment to assignment.  He does some time in the field, and he seems to shift departments as fast as most third world countries shift governments. 

He’s not sure he’d call it luck that lands him at the ODS, but when he shows up for work the first day after his transfer, his team leader looks at him with a critical eye.

“You look better on paper,” he says.  His name is Callahan, and if there’s a first name that goes with that, Michael never learns it.

Michael shrugs.  “Isn’t that what matters?”

Callahan looks at him with a gruff snort and introduces him to the rest of the team.  There’s June, a bright-eyed veteran who has made the most of her womanly virtues in her stint at the Agency.  Charlie is a tech genius and pretty good with languages, even if he’s awkward in the field.  Peter is by the book and devoid of humor, but he’s the best Michael’s seen under pressure.

It’s the first time that Michael’s really worked on a team, and it takes some time for him to get used to that.  The first few missions are hard on all of them, but when Michael gets captured by a Russian arms dealer and his team risks everything to save him, he begins to see the advantages of such an arrangement.

From then, he works hard to earn their trust.  He works harder; he trains more frequently.  Callahan teaches him about how to pick and choose a mission; June shows him the value of human leverage.  Charlie helps him discover how to use technology to stack the deck, and Peter is a lesson in how focusing on the goal usually gets the prize.

For a while, it seems perfect to Michael.  They work together like a well oiled machine.

When Charlie catches a bullet in the field, Michael pulls out all the stops to save him.  June charms them a transport; Peter lays down the right cover fire.  Callahan drives with singular focus, and Michael sits in back, putting pressure on the wound.

He tells Charlie it’ll be okay, they’ll make it.  And Michael believes it, so Charlie believes it, too.

Charlie dies ten miles out, just bleeds to death with his eyes open and Michael’s hand still pressed firmly against his side.  He doesn’t make a sound, doesn’t have any last words to say; he’s just gone.

A year later, June falls in love and resigns her post.  Peter is crippled in a helicopter crash and has to retire on full disability.  Callahan up and quits, and Michael finds himself alone.

He gets a promotion, which he takes because he doesn’t see any other choice.  He’s assigned a new team, the best of the best, he’s promised, and Michael spends time looking over their files with guarded curiosity.

Casey Malick, Derek Vance, and Lionel Kingston.  Good men on paper, but when he shakes their hands their first day in, Michael just can’t trust himself to be sure.

-o-

Derek Vance is young and he washes out first.  Lionel Kingston is good, but a loose canon.  He’s just as likely to make the mission as he is to ruin it.

But when thing get dicey on a mission to Cambodia, it’s Casey who surprises him.  They’ve all been captured except Casey, and protocol is for Casey to alert the CIA for backup.  It is, however, a protocol that Michael knows will get them all killed, one by one by one.

He’s going to throw himself on his sword to buy the others time, but when he’s being blindfolded for the firing squad, all hell breaks loose.

When it’s over, someone takes his blindfold off, and Casey is looking at him, both relieved and annoyed.

Michael glances around, notes the dead guards and incapacitated militants.  “Protocol was--”

Casey rolls his eyes.  “Screw protocol,” he says.  “I wasn’t about to leave you to get slaughtered.”

Michael briefly considers a reprimand, but the fact is, he’s pretty happy to be alive and even happier that Casey has completed the mission singlehandedly.

Casey moves, starts untying the bonds around Michael hands.  “Besides,” he continues.  “The odds didn’t seem that bad.”

Michael raises an eyebrow.  “They were about twenty to one,” he says.

Casey tosses the binding on the floor and seems to scowl.  “I don’t believe in failure,” he says plainly.

Michael smiles.  “You think we can take out the rest while we go spring Vance and Kingston?”

Casey just inclines his head.  “What did you have in mind?”

Michael’s still working on that, but what he knows with growing certainty is that he can trust Casey to get the job done.

-o-

After Vance washes out, it takes Kingston a few years to mellow.  By the time he’s really a field agent worth holding onto, he gets a promotion into management.  The ODS gets a string of replacements, from green recruits fresh off the Farm to cantankerous veterans with one foot out the door.  The tides have shifted at the CIA; they aren’t privy to the best of the best anymore, and when Michael’s latest replacement ends up quitting in tears, he takes his case for a proper operative straight to the director.

The director humors him but feeds him a line about budget constraints all the same.  He talks about the needs of other departments and how there’s just not enough money to go around.

Michael reminds him of their history together, of a mission in Nigeria almost ten years ago.

Pale-faced, the director hands him three files and tells him he can have his pick.

-o-

On paper, two of them are particularly impressive.  Tanya Evans has had a colorful five year career and she’s currently looking for a more challenging assignment after undercover work in the Middle East.  Christopher Frederickson has impeccable language skills and has a stack of glowing reviews in his file. 

But it’s the last one that makes Michael pause.  William Collins is former British Secret Service, which interests Michael.  He’s not egocentric enough to think that the CIA has the market on spy skills, and Collins has certainly completed some missions of note.  But a deportation hearing and a complete severance of ties from his home country is a compelling counterargument, and it’s no wonder that Collins hasn’t found a home in the CIA just yet.

Logically, Michael knows he’d be a fool to take Collins over Evans or Frederickson.  But the fact is, every agent he’s had has looked good on paper, and only one has lasted at all in the field.  Trust has to be earned in the Agency, and Evans and Frederickson won’t feel like they have to prove anything with their credentials.

Deported and disgraced, Michael sort of thinks Collins might.  Trust might be earned in some cases, but it can be bought, too, and giving the second chance to a spy in need of redemption might be just the leverage Michael needs to make a career agent out of William Collins.

-o-

William goes by Billy, which seems about right since he’s a bit like an eager puppy.  His Scottish accent is thick and he seems to go around wagging his tail in front of everyone, looking for friendship and approval.  At first, Michael is skeptical of this friendly behavior and thinks maybe he picked wrong.  But Billy is just as ready to please Michael as he is anyone else, and it’s sort of nice to have his plans met with such undue enthusiasm.  At least, it’s a good contrast to Casey, whose response to everything is a scowl and a roll of his eyes.

Billy is useful in the field, too.  Casey can be trusted to take down any target by force, but Billy can usually corral what they need by power of his personality alone.  His skills are vast and ever-growing; he takes to new ideas like a duck to water and seems to know instinctively how to blend in no matter what the situation is.

In this, Michael almost regards Billy as an asset.  An enjoyable asset that is easy enough to control.  He’s a good complement to Casey, and Michael likes the balance in this.

During a mission in Argentina, Michael gives an order that Billy obeys without question.  It’s not until Casey checks in that Michael realizes that he’s sent Billy on a suicide mission.

By the time he and Casey get there to back him up, most of the damage as been done.  Billy’s managed to take down the security in the compound, downing at least four guards in the process in a feat almost impressive even to Casey. 

Unfortunately, Billy’s work only got him so far, and Michael finds him fallen at the exit, with his back to the door and a gun in his hands.  Almost like he’s keeping watch until the team arrives, just as planned.  Except Billy taking a stomach full of bullets was never part of the plan.

For a moment, all Michael can do is stand there and stare at Billy’s bleeding and wounded body, thinking about how all of this is his fault.

It’s Casey who takes Billy’s pulse and looks up at Michael in surprise.  “He’s alive,” he says.

Michael swallows hard against the guilt and fear as Casey lays Billy out to attempt first aid.  The Scotsman doesn’t stir, and it’s all Michael can do to keep the fear out of his voice when he calls in for backup.

It takes some string pulling, but Michael manages to get a helicopter to meet them for extraction.  Casey offers to carry Billy, but Michael refuses, instead slinging the injured man over his own shoulders as they make a break for safety.

When they get Billy settled on the chopper, Michael watches his pale face the entire flight and thinks about how earning trust shouldn’t have to be so difficult.

-o-

Michael’s not looking for a new team member.  The three of them work well together, and Michael knows of no rule that says the ODS has to be a four person operation.  When there are only three, Michael has fewer people to keep track of and fewer places to risk his trust, which is exactly the way he likes it.

When Rick Martinez shows up, he’s obviously a mole.  Ever since Higgins has taken over as director, he’s had it out for Michael and his team, and Martinez seems like the latest trick to try to take them down.

He doesn’t have to consult with Billy and Casey when he enacts his plan; they know it already and any details they may not be clear on they can pick up from observation alone.  He doesn’t ask their approval or their opinion, and they don’t doubt his intentions or his methods.

The fact is, when they have the pictures in hand, it makes them all feel better.

And it’s not just about their jobs, because none of them are that vain.  Theirs is a job without recognition or credit, not even from within.  None of them have ever needed a pat on the back to do their job, and getting fired would only be an inconvenience to their plans.

It’s about going into the field with someone they can trust.  Casey treats everyone with equal disdain and Billy shows universal kindness that only means something when you know how to look for what he’s really thinking.  Michael is sparse with praise and stringent with details; he needs a team that can read him and follow his directions, no matter how ridiculous they seem.

Rick’s no good for any of this, but his wide-eyed naivete makes Michael curious.  He plays dumb in Africa, and Billy and Casey follow suit, just to see how Rick might step up to the plate.  Eating the scorpion to save Michael’s fingers is an impressive show of talent, courage, and loyalty, and it’s enough for Michael to use him as the ploy in the next phase of the mission.

They give back the pictures because they don’t need pictures to own someone.  Martinez values a career in the CIA more than anything else, and in that, Michael has all the leverage he’ll ever need to keep Rick in check.

It’s not until after it’s over, until after Rick’s digested the scorpion, slept off the drugs, and woken up from the electrical shock and they’re all back home that Michael wonders if the kid’s still good for something.  Because, Michael has put the kid through hell, and the next day when they’re Stateside, Rick still shows up. 

Michael has lied and manipulated and Rick still follows them at the drop of a hat even when he clearly doesn’t want to.  Michael wasn’t lying when he said trust could be earned in the Agency, and if Casey earned it with heroism and Billy earned it with blood, maybe Rick could earn it by being a willing part of a team that never wanted him in the first place.

Michael’s not sure about that--he’s never been sure about that kind of thing--but he’s starting to trust himself enough to find out.

Comments

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: June 16th, 2011 02:33 pm (UTC)
CHAOS: Martinez

This is awesome. Such a great look at the team and how they came together and how Michael looks at them and everything. I love it :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 01:32 am (UTC)
billy earnest

It's pretty frustrating because there's obviously more to these characters that we'll probably never get to see/know on screen. It sort of drives me nuts, which is probably why I can't stop writing fic.

Thanks :)

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 11:51 am (UTC)

I have a lot of shows like that...

Posted by: lukadreaming (lukadreaming)
Posted at: June 16th, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
Billy

Oh, I love this! Very plausible backstory and shows Michael as the lynchpin.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 01:33 am (UTC)
stephen blue sky

I do wish we were going to get more chances to learn their backstory through the show, but I suppose I should learn to be grateful for the scant episodes we will get.

Thanks :)

Posted by: Ally (leafy07)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 12:05 am (UTC)

Brilliant. I loved your idea of how the team got put together. And Billy was awesome :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
billy earnest

I am such a fangirl of Billy that it's not even funny :)

Thanks!

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