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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: Last Man Standing

June 16th, 2011 (08:23 pm)
Tags: ,

Title:  Last Man Standing

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N:  Based the prompt Team member of your choosing retiring from the lovely eviinsanemonkey .  I took that and went a few steps beyond.  Quick beta given by sendintheklowns .  I did some more tweaking, so mistakes are my own.

Summary:  The ODS has never been about a name; it’s about the ideals of the people in it.

-o-

Casey retires first.

The announcement is actually a surprise to Rick, who has come to expect Casey’s curmudgeonly attitude and impervious tenacity a staple of his CIA experience.  Still, Casey breaks the news to them one morning with minimal fanfare.  He slips it in after delineating the latest intel from one of his assets in Russia, like it’s nothing at all.

“Anyway, Dimitry says that there’s definitely some suspicious activity in that region that we should probably keep an eye out for,” Casey explains.  “And if we plan the mission before Christmas, I should still be around to complete it.”

They all caught it, of course, and Rick glances to Billy who lifts his eyebrows at Michael.

“Do you have some vacation you haven’t told us about?” Michael asks.

Casey shakes his head.  “No,” he says plainly.  “I’m up for early retirement.”

Rick can only stare; from Michael and Billy’s silence, it seems like they’re just as surprised as he is for once.

After a moment, Billy asks on behalf of all of them.  “You’re joking, right?”

It’s taken time for Rick to master the nuances of his teammates, but he notices the uncomfortable shift in Casey’s posture.  “No,” he says.  “Higgins offered me a good deal.  He’s keen on cleaning out the older members of the Agency.  I figured I should go while there’s still some money to pay out of the retirement fund.”

This actually seems moderately reasonable, which is why it’s immediate suspect to Rick.  He can’t help it; he scoffs.  “You’re taking early retirement,” he says, looking at Casey with something akin to disbelief.

Casey frowns.  “Is there something so impossible to believe about that?”

Rick just nods.  “As a matter of fact, yes,” he says, sort of amazed that Casey is actually going to make him say it.  “You’re a spy, through and through.  I mean, what are you going to do in retirement?  Garden?”

Casey scowls.  “You know nothing of my personal life.”

Billy inclines his head.  “That’s because beyond a frightening obsession with guns and other forms of weaponry and self-defense, your favorite pastime seems to be reading the books in the CIA library that no one else has checked out in years.”

“Which have been invaluable assets on any number of our cases,” Casey reminds them.

“Which is the point,” Michael contends, tilting his head knowingly.  “You’re still a needed member of this team.”

Something in Casey’s countenance shifts, and Rick’s putting together what it could mean when Michael is already pouncing.

“Is this about Indonesia?” Michael asks.

Casey sighs.  “Indonesia and South Africa before that,” he confirms.

“You do know that we never expect you to take down an entire army by yourself, right?” Billy asks.

It takes Rick just one more second before the pieces click.  They’d almost gotten killed in Indonesia. Casey had taken down nearly ten men before they’d been overrun and forced to retreat.  After fending off eight attackers in South Africa with nothing but a rock and his wits, Casey had been apprehended mid-mission.

“You think you’re a liability?” Rick asks, because it’s almost too funny to take seriously.

But this is serious to Casey.  His face stays composed, but Rick can tell it’s an effort.  “I’m the human weapon,” he reminds them.  “My success is entirely attributed to my physical prowess in the field.  One time might be a fluke; the second time, not so much.  I can’t take the risk of failing because of my body’s increasing limitations.”

Rick still wants to laugh, but he knows it’s not the right response.

“You’re still the best damn operative in any harried situation,” Michael tells him with naked honesty.  “The entirety of present company included.”

Billy nods in agreement and Rick can only blink his acquiescence.

Casey swallows hard, face resolved.  “I have always been 100 percent in the field.  When I’m not, I do whatever it takes to get back to that point.  This time, I can’t.  The only way to ensure that the working whole of this team is at peak capacity is if I’m not there.”

They could argue this point, and Rick’s ready to.  But when he looks to Billy and Michael, their faces tell a different story.

“It wouldn’t be the same without you,” Billy says finally.  “I wouldn’t know what to do without my daily dose of negativity.  Things might actually get chipper around here.”

“You’re going to be impossible to replace,” Michael adds, offering Casey one last out.

Casey’s jaw works, but he just nods.  “I know,” he says, and there’s sadness in those simple words, not so well hidden behind the immovable resignation.

They say goodbye to Casey several months later, a party complete with cupcakes and streamers in the break room.  Casey is genuinely surprised by the turnout, and when it’s over, Rick stays with Michael and Billy to clean up the mess before coming back to work the next day.

-o-

Billy is the next to go.  Higgins never approves a replacement for Casey, and the three of them find a new rhythm in the field.  Billy’s right that the undergirding negativity leaves with Casey’s departure, so it’s a little counterintuitive that the entire team seems to darken somehow as a result. 

This time, Rick’s not surprised at the announcement.  They’ve had years together, and Rick knows his team well.  He knows Michael’s plans before he lays them out and he can predict Billy’s tactics in the field before the Scotsman makes a single move.

So he’s seen it coming.  The way Billy has fewer stories to tell; the way he lets Rick take over more of the work that he used to do by himself.  They’ve all survived without Casey, but of all of them, it’s Billy who’s never recovered from his early retirement.

Billy is more tactful in his announcement, though.  He takes them out for dinner after their latest mission, buys a bottle of wine and lets it slip in while downing his drinks in large gulps.  “I’m leaving the Agency,” he says after his third glass.  They’ve ordered nearly everything on the menu and while Billy has sampled widely, it doesn’t seem like he’s indulged in much of anything except the wine.

“You’re drunk,” Michael tells him, taking a sip of his own glass.

“That point notwithstanding,” Billy concedes with an exaggerated nod.  He lifts on hand, pointing his finger absently at them as if to make his point.  “I believe my time has come.”

The certainty of it makes Rick’s stomach turn.  Just because this doesn’t surprise him, doesn’t mean that it’s any easier to take.  “What will you do?”

Billy shrugs.  “What’s not to do?” he asks.  “I’ve given the better part of my life to the service of not one, but two countries.  I’d like this last bit to still be mine while I’m virile enough to enjoy it.”

There’s a salacious tone in his voice, but Rick sees through it.  The years have worn them all away, but they all show it differently.  Michael is steadfastly paranoid still, quiet in his determination and less diplomatic in his means.  Rick has foregone idealism for practicality; he recognizes the boundaries he needs to break and the ones he needs to keep in check for the sake of his team. 

Billy’s done what he needs to do to get the job done, but the missions don’t seem to bring him to life the way they used to.  He doesn’t love it anymore.  Not like Michael does; not like Rick does.

This is why Rick can accept this so readily, why this time he’s not ready to fight it.

“Have you considered asking Higgins to see if you can get a conditional return to the UK?” Rick asks.

Billy blinks in surprise.  “Why would Higgins even remotely want to do that?”

“You served this country well,” Rick says.  He shrugs.  “Seems like we owe you something.”

This is something Billy clearly hasn’t expected.  “Do you think you can get him to go for it?”

Rick’s not sure about that; Higgins has not mellowed with age.  But Michael just smiles.  “Consider it your going away present.”

Billy looks at them for a second, eyes watery, before his face opens up with a real smile, the first one Rick’s seen in years.  “Then this is cause for celebration,” he exclaims, nodding to the waiter as he asks for another bottle of wine.

They stay until the restaurant closes, and Billy’s so drunk that Michael and Rick have to help him walk out.  They deposit him at his apartment, where he collapses on the couch, sleeping heavily before they can even say goodnight. 

Michael takes a breath and meets Rick’s eyes.  They don’t say anything, but Michael nods once at him before giving Billy one last look and walking out. 

Rick stays only a minute longer before patting Billy on the shoulder and following Michael out the door.

-o-

Michael is the last to leave.  After Billy moves on, there is a string of replacements, some better than others.  Michael doesn’t seem to connect with any of them, and they all seem willing to take the first transfer possible out of the ODS.  But between the two of them, Rick and Michael still get the job done, with or without Higgins’ consent.

These are quiet years, but productive ones.  Sometimes Rick vacations in Idaho, where Casey has retired and bought a plot of land on which he is entirely self sufficient.  Together, they till the land in Casey’s garden, patching holes in his roof or mending the fences around his hen house.  Casey still lectures Rick about how to get the job done, even though Rick’s been doing it for years now. 

When they’re in England, Rick makes a point to swing by London, where Billy’s got a flat now.  He and his wife always entertain Rick, making him elaborate home cooked dinners with all the trimmings.  Billy usually breaks his guitar out afterward, singing well into the night between stories and inside jokes.  The last time Rick visits, they’re expecting a baby.

Michael never joins Rick on these excursions, but he takes news of their exploits with as much enthusiasm as he musters for anything these days.

Then they have a mission in Argentina.  Their latest recruits, Dawson and Rigsby, mess up the meet; Dawson ends up with a bullet in her leg and Rigsby never makes it out at all.  The entire mission is a bust and when they get back, Higgins calls Michael into his office for what they both know will be the worse thrashing yet.

Rick sits alone in the ODS office and stares at the walls.  Not much seems to have changed in the years he’s been here.  The decorations are still sparse and the accommodations are outdated.  Sometimes, though, when he’s all alone, he can still see Billy lounging at his desk and Casey erect at his computer while Michael spills over notes with his glasses on.  He remembers his first day there, and he still has the same stolen chair and the picture of someone else’s dog to prove it.

When Michael comes back, he’s expressionless.  Rick waits expectantly while Michael goes back to his seat and starts opening his drawers.

Rick finally asks, “So?”

Michael glances at him.  “It’s over,” he says.

Rick just blinks.  “What?”

“It’s over,” Michael says again.  “The ODS is being dissolved.”

Rick’s come to anticipate a lot, but this one hits him like a punch in the gut.  “Over one mission?  The intel was bad--it wasn’t your fault.”

“It’s a lot of missions,” Michael says.  He sits back with a sigh.  “Higgins has wanted to get rid of this unit since you first came.  This is just the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Took longer than any of us expected, but he’s finally got the leverage he needs.”

Rick is almost gaping now, trying to make sense of it.  “But what will you do?”

Michael shrugs.  “Retirement,” he says.  “It’s been my time for years now, I just didn’t know how to admit it.”

Rick wants to protest.  Rick wants to tell him to get serious.

But there’s nothing can do.  “And the team?” he asks, his voice barely working.

“Dawson will be reassigned when she’s better,” he says.  “And you’ll finally be getting a promotion.”

“A promotion?”

“After this many years in service?  You’re a valuable asset, Martinez,” Michael says, pulling some things and dumping them in the trash.  “Higgins has wanted to promote you for years, but I never let him.”

This is good news as much as it is bad news.  Rick’s plan was always to get ahead.  When he first joined, he never envisioned the same post for so long to be the end all, be all for him.  But now, he realizes that he’s never regretted his time, not even a little.  “And what if I don’t want it?”

Michael looks at him.  “Then you’d be a fool,” he says.

Rick shakes his head.  “What we do is important,” he says, more firmly now.

Michael nods.  “It was,” he says.

“Then I can’t take the promotion.”

Michael says, leaning forward and looking at Rick with the same intensity of that first day.  “You have to take the promotion,” he says.  “We need you to still be here, fighting the good fight.”

“But the ODS...,” Rick says, feeling at a loss. 

“The ODS has never been about a name; it’s about the ideals of the people in it,” Michael tells him, certain and resolute.  “It can go on as long as you do.  Do it for Casey and for Billy.  For me.”

That’s the one argument that Rick has no defense for--none at all.

He feels his heart flutter and tears prick behind his eyes.  “I don’t know how I’ll do it without you,” he admits.

At this, Michael smirks.  “Yes, you do,” he says.  “You’ve known all along.  It’s just time to trust yourself as much as all of us trusted you.”

That night, after Rick has helped Michael pack up his things and take them out to his car, he lingers in the office one last time.  He remembers what it was like, what this place stood for.  He remembers the lessons, good and bad.  And he remembers the people.

Most of all, he remembers his team.

Resolved, he knows he needs to stop by Higgins’ office before he goes home.  The man is old now, and seems determined to outlast them all.  But Rick’s willing to give him a run for his money because someone really has to and it looks like it’s up to him.

Before he leaves, Rick gives it one last look before flicking the lights off and moving on.

Comments

Posted by: lukadreaming (lukadreaming)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 06:41 am (UTC)
Billy

This is fabulous. Utterly plausible and it made me snivel a little! I love the way you really nail the characters.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 12:14 pm (UTC)
billy content

I made myself snivel a little while writing it. And thank you :) I really have been enjoying writing these characters--obviously!

Posted by: Ally (leafy07)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 07:30 am (UTC)

Aww. That was great. My eyes are a little watery :( I still have no idea how you manage to capture the characters so well!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 12:15 pm (UTC)
CHAOS team

It's just hard to understand why a show with characters that speak to me so much is being taken off the air so soon. It doesn't seem fair!

Thanks :)

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 12:05 pm (UTC)
CHAOS: Martinez

Aw, this is brilliant. I love it!! So bittersweet. I love the end SO MUCH <3. And the whole thing is just so perfect.

(and you're up)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 12:18 pm (UTC)
billy earnest

Honestly, this one made me sad to write it. I sort of hate the idea of them breaking up, even though realistically it'll happen.

Thanks :)

(And now you've got me on the sad streak, so I blame you for my prompt. A character death of your choosing (who, what, when, where, why--entirely up to you). If you'd like to do something else, I'd be happy to give you another prompt, but you planted the seeds of death in my head inadvertently yesterday and now I'm curious about it...)

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)

Yeah, it's sad, but inevitable...

(I'll see what I can do)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 12:27 pm (UTC)

(Like I said, I can give you something less angsty, too. My mind easily swings from morbid and cheery :)

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: June 17th, 2011 12:41 pm (UTC)

(S'all right, I think I've already got an idea...)

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 12:09 pm (UTC)
CHAOS: Martinez

here it is

Posted by: smokeygirl19 (smokeygirl19)
Posted at: June 19th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)

Good retirements stories! At least, they all lived! That's something special to JM fans...who watched his characters die so often in his other work!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 21st, 2011 01:50 am (UTC)
chaos team 2

I toyed with the idea of a death fic for this, but I needed this one to have a happy (or bittersweet) feel. I like to think they could all end up happy/peaceful in their own way.

I haven't seen a ton of James' work but I still haven't gotten over Stephen's death in Primeval. Whenever I think about it, I still get angsty.

Thanks :)

Posted by: smokeygirl19 (smokeygirl19)
Posted at: June 21st, 2011 03:03 am (UTC)

His characters died in the Sittaford House, Mothers and Sons, the Kings Men, and Krod Mandoon. His character lived happily-ever-after in Under the Greenwood Tree, lost his love in Phoenix Blue, and gained his love in Cutting It. The death of Stephen in Primeval was pretty depresssing to his fans, since he played that character so well. So, you can imagine how angsty Stephen's death was for fans who had been following JM's career since 2003 or so!

Edited at 2011-06-21 03:04 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 22nd, 2011 12:24 am (UTC)
billy content

I'm a newbie when it comes to James--so it's kind of good to know what roles he meets his demise in--and prepare myself accordingly. Although finding most of this stuff for American DVD players is a bit of a challenge :)

If I had been watching Primeval as it was aired, I think I would have taken Stephen's death much worse. Since I came to the party late, I knew what was going to happen, which helped, but it still makes me want to fix it so bad.

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: January 5th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
Sniffles!

Okay, no h/c, not a deathfic and yet I find myself sobbing a bit with this one. Sobbing as much for the plot of this as each member retires (though I LOVE the "happily ever after retirement" you gave Billy, a well-eaqrned and deserved wife and family back in his homeland) to the parallel of how the show ended and that it did end less auspiciously as this story ended. I love the idea of Rick carrying the torch, getting promoted. It's sad and yet profoundly satisfying.

Loved it!

Fav Parts:

“You do know that we never expect you to take down an entire army by yourself, right?” Billy asks.

--Billy is so FUNNY. You have his voice so down pat!!


“It wouldn’t be the same without you,” Billy says finally. “I wouldn’t know what to do without my daily dose of negativity. Things might actually get chipper around here.”

--Again, Billy's touch of love imbedded in sarcasm, just lovely!



Billy shrugs. “What’s not to do?” he asks. “I’ve given the better part of my life to the service of not one, but two countries. I’d like this last bit to still be mine while I’m virile enough to enjoy it.”

--HAHAHAHA! I love that you have him say this and yet he ends up married with a child on the way!!


Billy’s done what he needs to do to get the job done, but the missions don’t seem to bring him to life the way they used to. He doesn’t love it anymore. Not like Michael does; not like Rick does.

--You have the key motivator for Billy here. He has to love the work and when it no longer gives him that, he knows it as a sign that it's time to move on.


“The ODS has never been about a name; it’s about the ideals of the people in it,” Michael tells him, certain and resolute. “It can go on as long as you do. Do it for Casey and for Billy. For me.”

--I LOVE that Michael finishes the ODS legacy with a lovely bit of philosophy and the proper incentive for Rick.

Great!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 6th, 2012 01:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Sniffles!
billy watches

This one actually made me really sad to write, even though it was also satisfying. And I had to give Billy a happy ending -- I've killed him twice now, so I had to indulge the other extreme by giving him everything he could possibly want. And really, I think for all his talk, Billy could be very happy with something more domestic. He is ultimately the kind of person who thrives on connection and I can see him committing fully to a family with a flourish.

And really, I do like to think that Rick will be a good legacy for all of them. Though I hate to think of them ever really disbanding!

Thanks!

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