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Chaos fic: Five Times Billy Sings (And One Time He Doesn't)

July 1st, 2011 (08:47 am)
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Title:  Five Times Billy Sings (And One Time He Doesn’t)

Disclaimer:  Not mine (characters or songs!).

A/N:  I blame geminigrl11 .  I asked her for help on what Billy might sing and then she had plotted this entire fic and I had no choice but to write it.

Spoilers:  Nothing too specific, unless you count the fact that Billy sings in “Remote Control.”  Also, there’s an ode to “A Life Less Ordinary” in there, for those who know the movie :)

Summary:  Rick gets to know Billy through his songs, understanding his moods and his mindsets from how and when he sings.

-o-

1.  Rick has heard Billy sing before, but it’s not until Amsterdam that he really hears Billy sing.

Of course, they’re not in Amsterdam to hear Billy sing; they’re there to gain access to a dangerous human trafficking ring that has been targeting Western tourists, including a few Americans in the last year.  All their intel has led them to Amsterdam and a cover bar just outside the red light district.

His team is as nervous as they ever get, taking the time to remind Rick in excess just how dangerous this is.

Rick gets the point.  He’s seen the file.  People who go up against this ring rarely come back alive.

As thoroughly communicated as that point is, the rest of the details are vague.  They’ve each got an alias, and they’re traveling as businessmen with less than legitimate ulterior motives.  At the bar, they need to make contact and wait for the signal, at which point they’ll initiate contact and try nabbing an in with at least some segment of the group.

“Once we have our in, that’s all we need,” Michael reminds Rick.  “But that also means, there’s no turning back.”

Rick can’t help but nod solemnly, and as they settle at the table, it’s all Rick can do to try to look somewhat normal amongst the revelry.

Because it is a popular bar.  People seem to be everywhere and the music is loud.  After awhile, Rick’s starting to worry something has gone wrong when the music stops and a light on the stage appears.

Rick recognizes the man in the spotlight immediately.  Gary Welch, one of the men from the file Rick’s memorized.  He’s a higher up in the organization, connected directly to several disappearances along with sundry other violent charges.

On stage, he looks imposing.  His gruff face is garish in the light and he seems to snarl into the microphone.  “Richie Vanderlo,” he says, eyes perusing the crowd.  Then he smirks.  “Your presence is requested.”

Rick’s heart skips a beat, because he knows that name.  His own alias is Victor Carraday, but Richie Vanderlo is his Scottish associate.

Looking to Billy, the Scot is unusually sullen.  Casey and Michael are looking at him seriously.

“You don’t have to do this,” Michael tells him.

“As much as I hate to say it, we can find another way,” Casey agrees.

Billy’s jaw works and he shakes his head.

Rick shakes his head, too, trying to put the pieces together.  “Another way?  What’s he supposed to do?”

“No,” Billy says, soft but resolute.  “Someone has to take one for the team.”

Rick’s brow furrows.  “I don’t understand.”

Billy looks at him, blue eyes sincere.  “They considered making this your mission, and usually I’m on board with putting the rookie in the line of fire, but I couldn’t let you take the risk,” he says.  “Not with something like this.”

Rick’s eyes go wide.  “Something like what?”

Billy pats his arm and then gets up, heading through the crowd.

Desperate, Rick turns to Michael.  “We’re just going to let him go?” he asks, worst case scenarios flashing through his head.  “What are they going to do with him?”

Death or torture or human slavery--the list seems endless--but Michael takes a breath and lets it out with a shrug.  “Billy knows what he signed on for.”

Rick’s practically incredulous until he hears Billy’s smooth voice at the microphone.

“Thank you,” Billy says and Rick turns in time to see him waving at the crowd.  “Normally, I don’t like to make a spectacle, but this is a very special night for me and my handsome companion, Victor.”

The spotlight shifts, suddenly blinding Rick as the crowd ahhs and erupts into cheers.

Rick’s still blind when Billy says, “Vic, darling, this one’s for you.”

The implication has Rick mortified and when the spotlight shifts, he’s gaping in horror at the stage where Billy is standing.  The music has started up again, gentler this time, with a lulling melody before Billy flashes a grin at him and starts to sing, “Somewhere, beyond the sea...”

Billy’s voice is pitch perfect, strong and confident as he handles the tune deftly.  When it hits the chorus, he starts moving with the music, pulling out a footwork routine that must be rehearsed even if Rick doesn’t know how Billy had the time or foresight for such things.

“And I know, beyond a doubt,” Billy croons, moving his hips in perfect rhythm, “my heart will lead me there soon.”

The crowd whoops and Billy takes the routine up a notch, full on dancing as he belts out the next verse.  In the background, their mark is still on stage, but he seems to be smiling, a small devious grin now.

Rick shakes his head.  “This was the plan,” he realizes finally. 

“The performance is our means of introduction,” Michael says.  “It may seem like a silly rite of initiation, but our intel was pretty clear that they like to see the lengths potential partners will go before even considering inviting them into their business.”

Rick nods, watching as Billy pulls a girl from the audience and starts leading her in a routine during the musical interlude.  “And you couldn’t tell me that in advance?” he asks.

Michael grins. 

Casey shrugs.  “And miss the look on your face?” he asks, far too smug.

Rick glares at them before sinking lower in his seat as Billy finishes the song out before blowing a kiss right at Rick over the thundering applause.

2.  Billy sings when he’s tired; he sings when he’s happy.  He sings when he’s thinking; he sings when he’s bored.

Sometimes, he just sings, and the less timely the intrusion, the happier Billy seems about it.

It’s been a slow week, but Michael’s been having them pull some intel on an operation in Libya.  Rick’s been scouring the internet all morning, alternating his search with cross references in the CIA database.  All in all, it’s monotonous work that requires focus and attention or Rick’s likely to lose track altogether of his line of reasoning.

Normally, this isn’t a problem.

But today Billy decides to start singing.

And not just anything.

But this:

“How was I supposed to know that something wasn’t right here,” Billy starts off, his voice still somewhat quiet.

Casey looks up from his work and Michael stiffens imperceptibly.  Rick frowns, trying to place how he knows this song.

When no one stops him, Billy’s voice gains strength.  “I shouldn’t have let you go and now you’re right out of sight, yeah,” he continues, moving his head to the rhythm.

Casey sighs.  “Really?  Now?” he asks.

Billy grins at him as he continues.  “Show me how you want it to be,” he croons, looking with mock longing at Casey.

“I know this song,” Rick says.  “How do I know this song?”

Casey turns his eyes to Rick.  “Because you have also bought into the cult of American pop culture,” he says.

Rick shakes his head, still befuddled by the melody.

Billy seems indifferent to their conversation, entirely focused now on his song as it pitches to the climax.  “When I’m not with you I lose my mind, oh, give me a sign,” he sings.  Then he turns to Rick, eyes alight.  “Hit me, baby, one more time.”

Rick slaps his desk.  “Britney Spears!” he exclaims.

Casey rolls his eyes.  “Someone give the kid a prize,” he says blandly.

Then Rick realizes that Billy is singing Britney Spears with genuine inflection and zero humor.  He shakes his head.  “Britney Spears?”

Billy stops just long enough to say, “It’s an American classic,” he says.  “Truly representative of a generation.  I would be criminal not to remember it and celebrate.”

“Celebrate quieter,” Casey tells him pointedly.

Billy lifts his chin at Casey and starts the next verse.

Casey harrumphs but goes back to work. 

This time, when Billy reaches the chorus, he’s belting it out, standing up as he gets into the the song, moving his hips and motioning with his hands.  “Hit me, baby, one more time!”

“If you ask me to hit you again,” Casey interjects, “I may actually take you up on that.”

“Oh, Casey, you hurt my sensibilities,” Billy laments.

“There is nothing sensible about singing the song of a teen idol who engaged in poor relationship choices and had a meltdown by the age of 25,” Casey replies.

Billy actually looks crestfallen, but cedes the point as he sits back down.  The office lapses into silence and Rick lets himself to get back to work.

It’s not a minute later when Billy’s humming again.

Casey looks up and exchanges a look with Rick.

And Billy seems to break down.  “Hit me, baby, one more time!”

“Don’t test me, Collins,” Casey says testily.

Billy holds his hands up.  “I know, I know!” he says.  “She’s just so addictive.”  He turns, eyes twinkling at Rick as he quirks a suggestive eyebrow.  “You might even say toxic.”

Somehow, Rick is not surprised when Billy starts into the next of Britney’s hits not two minutes later.

3.  Of course, while Billy’s singing is rarely a surprise to Rick after awhile, his choice of songs never ceases to amaze him.  In fact, Rick gets to know Billy through his songs, understanding his moods and his mindsets from how and when he sings.

Rick almost thinks he has the Scot entirely figured out until they get cut off on a mission to Siberia.  Of course it happens in Siberia, because that’s just Rick’s luck.  They’re miles from civilization with no working forms of communication and no means of viable transportation.  They’ve got basic supplies and rations and the knowledge that when they miss check in the next morning, Michael and Casey will find them, which is reassuring, Rick figures, but it doesn’t solve the immediate problem of being stranded and alone in Siberia.

It’s cold--downright frigid--and they’ve been stranded for nearly a day now.  Rick knows Casey and Michael will come for them, but he’d be a liar to say that the thought of dying in remote Siberia didn’t unnerve him slightly.

Billy seems no worse for wear with it.  He chats Rick up constantly, making jokes and telling stories as they carefully ration out their supplies and huddle close around their fire for warmth.  As the night settles in, Rick feels his anticipation ratchet up as it becomes harder to keep his circulation going.

In the wee hours of the morning, when it’s Rick’s turn to keep the fire going, Billy stays awake anyway and after awhile, his voice starts the haunting tune.

“O the summer time has come, and the trees are sweetly blooming, and the wild mountain thyme grows around the purple heather,” he lilts.  And if Billy is usually theatrical in his performances, this one is subdued, private somehow.  “Will you go, lassie, go?”

“That’s Scottish,” Rick says when Billy concludes.

“Aye,” Billy says, his breath curling up in the dark cold.  “Sometimes, when missions are particularly lonely and daunting, I like to think of the things that remind me of home.  Somehow, they always make me feel safe, even when I’m not.”

Rick doesn’t say anything back, and after a few more minutes, Billy’s voice picks up again, gentle and drifting in the moonlight.

“I will range through wilds and the deep land so dreary and return with the spoils to the bower o’ my dearie,” the tune goes on, escaping like smoke toward the moon.  “Will ye go, lassie, go?”

Even when Rick falls asleep in the predawn light, the song is still haunting his memory, the lyrics rolling through his head when Michael and Casey show up in the mid morning.

4.  Of course, for every time that Billy can be poignant, he can also be completely inappropriate.

Like serenading Casey with a love song when they’re trying to fight there way out of a tense situation.  Or singing bad hip hop when Michael is trying to work in the office.  Or offering a lurching tune when Rick’s trying to concentrate on something pivotal.

Or when there’s a baby in the room.

Granted, this doesn’t happen often.  The ODS is a covert team of spies; babies do not generally fall into their realm of operations.  But when they try to help an asset get to security, she insists on finishing her job first.  This might actually be noble, but she insists on finishing her job while knowing her child is safe.

In theory, this is an appropriate compromise: protect the child long enough for the mother to tie up her loose ends so they can all cut ties.

In application, this is really not appropriate.  Because said child is a baby, cooing and diapered and all.

Worse, the kid hasn’t stopped crying since his mother left, and it’s been nearly half an hour.

Rick paces, trying not to wince as the boy fusses in his crib.  “How long did she say she’d be?”

Michael looks a little pained to answer.  “Shouldn’t be more than an hour.”

An hour of this seems impossible.  “Maybe he needs to be fed?”

“She fed it before she left,” Casey says blandly.  “If we do it again, we’ll just have to do a diaper change.”

Rick continues to pace, looking at the baby with apprehension.  “Shouldn’t we do something?”

Michael shrugs.  “You could pick him up.”

Rick stops, looks at the baby, then starts pacing gain.

Billy sighs, rolling his eyes.  “You are all a hopeless lot,” he says, shaking his head.  He gets up and goes to the crib, smiling down at the child.  “The poor lad’s probably just bored.  Being stuck in a crib with no one to talk to.”

Rick looks at him.

Casey gives him a devious look.  “Then maybe you should pick it up.”

Billy bristles at the challenge.  “Maybe I will,” he says, bending over to scoop the baby up.  “Babies are people, too.  Just smaller.”

“Yeah, well, if it was a real person, I would merely explain the situation and it would stop crying,” Casey snarks.

“Aww,” Billy coos, adjusting the baby into his arms.  “The little guy just wants some love and attention.  Maybe a small song or two.”

“Then please, have at it,” Michael says.

Billy stills somewhat, rocking the baby gently as he begins to sing.

His voice is quiet and gentle, softer than Rick’s heard before.  It’s a simple tune, lulling in its quaintness, and Rick’s so taken with it that at first he doesn’t recognize the lyrics.

“I love to go swimming with bowlegged women and swim between their legs,” Billy sings, and it sounds nice because Billy’s sense of music is impeccable, but the choice of lyrical content leaves something to be desired.

“Billy,” Rick hisses.  “You can’t sing that to a baby.”

“Nonsense,” Billy says, still rocking.  “He likes it.”

“It’s completely inappropriate!” Rick says, his mortification mounting by the second.

“He’s not even six months old,” Billy reminds him.  “He doesn’t have the comprehension skills to make sense of a word we’re saying.  Besides, he probably doesn’t understand a lick of English.”

“But the idea of it!” Rick says, and the baby starts wailing louder.

“No, no,” Billy says, looking at the baby sincerely.  “Don’t listen to him.  It’s okay.  Just you and me and all the bowlegged women.”

With that, Billy starts up again.  “I love to go swimming with bowlegged women and swim between their legs,” he says, more earnestly than before.  “Swim between their legs.”

This is even more bothersome to Rick, primarily because it seems to work.  The baby stops crying, looking up at Billy with something akin to adoration and wonder as his voice continues to lurch over the crude and misplaced lyrics.

“You guys can’t be serious,” Rick says, turning to Michael and Casey for backup.

Michael shrugs.  “I don’t do babies.”

“Do you really want to hear that thing cry for hours straight until his mother gets back?” Casey asks.

Rick is still gaping when Billy launches into the second verse and the baby starts to giggle in utter contentment.

5.  And then, Billy’s singing is simply surprising.

It’s nothing but a CIA ceremony, which they’ve been to plenty before.  At first, Rick took them seriously, but over time, the cavalier indifference and tried and true skepticism of his teammates started to rub off on him.

They slink into the back of the room, just shy of being late.  Casey sits, looking bored, while Michael is slightly slouched as he eyes the crowd warily.  Inexplicably, Billy sits upright and eager, and Rick settles himself down for another wasted half hour of his life.

And then Higgins says, “Before we get started, I have asked Operative Collins to take a moment to honor this assembly with song,” he says.

Michael raises his eyebrows and Casey almost looks at Billy in accusation.  Billy doesn’t seem to notice as he gets to his feet, smoothing out his jacket as he makes his way to the front.  At the podium, he nods to Higgins with a prim smile before turning out to the audience.

And starts to sing.

Billy’s voice comes easily, and Rick recognizes the tune instantly.  “O say, can you see...”

He has to keep himself from gaping as he listens for more. 

“...by the dawn’s early light,” Billy continues, and his face is entirely composed, his voice steady and even.  It’s the most rehearsed Rick’s ever seen Billy, and the result is nothing short of impressive as he navigates the rise and fall of the melody.

When the song reaches the climax, Billy slows accordingly, taking deep breaths as he pulls it together.  There’s a collective hush over the crowd as his voice pushes higher.  “O’er the land of the free,” Billy sings, holding the note in perfect pitch as it resonates through the room.  “And the home of brave.”

Billy pulls that last note out, and it echoes so perfectly that Rick almost feels it in his chest, stirring the rhythm of his heart with its unabashed tenacity and fervor.

When Billy ends, there’s a moment of silence, as if no one can believe what they just heard.  One person starts clapping, then another, and Billy is actually blushing as he shakes Higgins’ hand and retreats back to his seat.

“Wow,” Michael says, amid the applause.  “I’m sort of impressed he can hit those notes.”

Casey snorts.  “I’m just amazed he took the time to learn the words.”

Rick doesn’t know what to say, because they’re both right, but mostly Rick’s just amazed that Billy sang it with more passion and more feeling than any American he’s ever met, that Billy sings it the way Rick feels it in his heart but can never quite express.

And one time he doesn’t.

It’s been a tense mission, but Billy’s kept them all from going crazy.  From his jokes to his stories to his nonstop singing, and though Casey gripes about it and Michael rolls his eyes, Rick knows they’re all grateful for the grounding.

So when the bullet catches Billy on their way out, Rick can hardly believe it.  They’re retreating to quickly to stop and deal with it.  Instead, Casey pulls Billy’s arm around his shoulder and half drags him out of the combat zone.

When they get to the car, Michael climbs into the driver’s seat while Rick helps Casey pull Billy into the back.  They’re barely situated when they’re on the move and it’s not until they’re on their way to the clear that Rick realizes the extent of what happened.

It’s not just the blood, although there’s a lot of that.  It’s spread all over Billy’s side, leaking onto the seat, and it’s all Rick can do to press his hands down on top of it, hoping to stem the flow.

It’s not even Billy’s dull stare as he watches, mouth open slightly, breaths shallow and pained.  Billy’s eyes track Rick’s movement but betray no emotion, and Rick swallows hard against the lump in his throat while Casey barks out orders from the front.

It’s the silence.  Billy’s rarely silent, barely still, even under pressure, and as Michael careens forward, the silence is almost more than Rick can handle.

“Hey,” he says, jostling Billy slightly.  “Don’t you have a story to tell?”

Billy blinks at him slowly.  “Told you all my best,” he says, accent harder to understand while slurred.

Rick shakes his head.  “A song then,” he says.  “You always have a song.”

This time Billy nods.  “But not the voice today,” he says.

The admission makes Rick feel sick and he can’t help the tears that sting his eyes.  “Well, then I’ll just have to sing for the both of us.”

Billy’s face registers something of surprise.  “I didn’t think you sang,” he says.  “Never have before.”

Rick pushes the emotions back and focuses.  “There’s a first for everything,” he says, and his mind races for a song.  He comes up blank for a moment, heart thudding in his ears.  Billy is watching him though; Billy’s counting on him this time.

With a shaky breath, Rick opens his mouth and sings the only thing he can remember:  "Lights will guide you home and ignite your bones and I will try to fix you."

The melody feels foreign in his throat, the lyrics heavy on his tongue.  He’s not sure where he knows this song, but it seems like it’s been waiting there for this moment all along.  As he holds Billy’s gaze, one hand still pressed firmly against his side, his voice finds new strength as he continues.

Rick goes through all the verses he can remember, still singing when Billy’s eyes shut, when they finally get to the hospital until the doctors take Billy away and Rick is left with blood on his hands and a tune in his head.

Later, after the surgery and Billy’s awake, Rick sits next to Billy and asks what he remembers.  Billy is rebounding in health and spirits quickly, but tells Rick he doesn’t remember a thing after going down.  The car ride is a blur to him.


This is mostly reassuring to Rick, but there’s still something that bothers him about it.  Somehow, he wants Billy to know what they’d shared, although it’s probably easier than he doesn’t.

Still, during the recovery that follows, Billy bears down against the pain and weakness in his body, and as he works hard, he hums the tune Rick recognizes, and Rick can only smile.


end

Song references
1.  "Beyond the Sea," as seen/heard in the movie "A Life Less Ordinary" (see it here!).
2.  "Hit Me Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears (see it here).
3. Old Mountain Thyme (lyrics here, performed here).
4.  I'm not sure the official title, but you can see it "performed" here.
5.  The Star Spangled Banner
And One Time He Doesn''t. "Fix You" by Coldplay (here). 

Comments

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: July 1st, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC)

I can't even properly express how much I love this.
Listened to all the songs will reading the parts, they fit so very well. Although I did chose Travis version of 'Hit me baby one more time' :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
billy

I'm glad :) It's hard to know how singing comes across in fic, so it's good to know this still worked.

And LOL, the Travis version is more acceptable overall, but I think in Billy's head, it's Britney's :)

Thanks!

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: July 1st, 2011 05:29 pm (UTC)
windmills

This is gorgeous! *wipes away tear*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
billy earnest

Thank you :) I'm really glad there's a audience for Chaos fic because I seem unable to stop writing it for now.

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2011 06:27 am (UTC)
Chaosketeers

Please, keep writing! *\o/*

I feel guilty for not writing fic myself at the moment. I started a CHAOS/Primeval crossover, but I think my muse has been abducted by aliens, because it disappeared completely *g*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2011 12:21 pm (UTC)
billy earnest

LOL, my muse has a mind of its own right now, so I think writing is probably going to continue at least for awhile.

And I hope you manage to finagle your muse back from the aliens because more fic is certainly needed in a fandom this small :)

Also, such a crossover sounds interesting. I've actually got a rough draft of one myself that I just need to get beta'ed, so hopefully I'll get it up someday.

Posted by: lukadreaming (lukadreaming)
Posted at: July 1st, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
Billy

Oh, lovely! Perfect mix of humour and angst.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
billy content

One of the things I love about this show is that it's able to mix humor and drama quite effectively. It makes for an enjoyable time.

Thanks!

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