?

Log in

No account? Create an account
do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: Uncovered 1/1

October 20th, 2011 (07:53 am)
irritated
Tags: ,

feeling: irritated

Title: Uncovered

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: I wrote this a month or so ago but certain life circumstances and a total lack of sleep have prevented me from posting. It's a somewhat common trope, but it seemed to provide such lovely angst that I couldn't resist. Much thanks to moogsthewriter for beta'ing.

Summary: Because Casey knows what he had to do and he knows what would have happened if he didn’t, but Casey still can’t forget.  



-o-

Deep cover is dangerous.

This is something Casey has known since the beginning; something he has not so secretly relished about his job.  In all honesty, it’s the main reason why he resisted joining the ODS in the beginning, because working with a team, for all its perks and safety, means giving up deep cover most of the time.

So when they need a volunteer to infiltrate a weapons ring in Asia, Casey insists.

“Are you sure?” Michael asks.

Casey just looks at him.

Michael raises his hands innocently.  “I just had to ask.”

-o-

Getting in is easy.  

There are certainly fine lines to walk and multiple things to prove.  He has to fight dirty and fight hard; he has to talk the talk and walk the walk.  For all intents and purposes, he becomes one of them, earning their trust through a duplicity so complete that he thinks of himself as his alias, not himself.

But he rises quickly.  The skills that make him a valuable CIA operative make him just as indispensable to his new employers.  Within weeks, he’s thoroughly invested, part of their drinking parties and with a place to sit in the van when they make their runs.

And the intel comes rolling in.

-o-

For Casey, the hardest part of a cover is making his CIA check-ins.  It’s easy to play a psychotic madman with no concern for morality or overall humanity.  But it’s substantially more difficult to break that cover to relay everything he’s collecting.

Still, that’s the entire point.  And Casey really does appreciate the challenge.

Billy, Michael, and Rick take turns with the checks, which helps keep things fresh.  They’ve been doing work on the outside as best they can, relaying Casey’s intel and processing fresh data from the outside.

It’s a good system.

“A few more weeks,” Casey tells Michael at his latest meet.  They’re looking at fruit in an open market.  Casey squeezes a lemon and Michael holds up a cantaloupe.

“That’s an awful short timeline to take down a network this entrenched,” Michael returns.

Casey smirks, putting down the lemon and shaking his head.  “Trust me,” he says, turning back to the crowd.  “A few more weeks is all I need.”

-o-

It all goes according to plan.  As Casey rises in the ranks, he gets more access to the client data.  Coupled with the outside intel about potential buyers that his team provides him with, it’s not hard to put together the pieces.  

Soon, Casey has a when and where for the latest sale, and it involves enough weaponry with enough illegal properties that everyone on site will probably never see the light of day again.

“It’s a go,” Casey says to Rick.  They’re at an internet cafe.

Rick sips a drink, clicking absently at his laptop.  “You sure?” he asks without looking.  “We’ll only get one shot.”

Casey smirks, shutting his own laptop.  “You say that like I’ll need more than one,” he says, promptly walking out.

-o-

The day of the bust, Casey’s nerves are buzzing.  He’s so hyped up on adrenaline that he can barely sit still.  Everything is acute for him, and he feels like he’s aware of every minute detail.

Which is good, of course.  Because he’s leading a die-hard gun gang into a high-stakes deal with a volatile and highly illegal buyer.  Not only does Casey need to make sure that they don’t kill each other out of sheer evil spite, but he has to make sure that they exchange money and product in a timely fashion for the CIA backed with armed forces to bust.

And Casey needs to try to ensure that no one gets killed in the process, good guy or otherwise.

So it’s sort of a big day.

But Casey can’t lie: he’s totally looking forward to it.  Because with all that can go wrong, Casey has more chances to show just how far he’ll go to make it go right.

-o-

Casey’s plan is foolproof.  He’ll stay on the inside until the end; he’ll be arrested with the rest.

The team will be at strategic points around the buy, well camouflaged in order to avoid detection from either paranoid side.

The armed forces will be further back so as not to arouse suspicion.  When the team catches Casey’s signal, they’ll call in backup and lead the raid.

Simple.  Foolproof.

Casey’s sure of it.

-o-

At first, Casey doesn’t think much of the yelling.

Criminals, in general, are not known for their positive tempers or their restraints.  That’s why most criminals get caught.  So minor skirmishes amongst the lower ranks are commonplace and to be expected given their economic backgrounds and lack of education.

But the yelling takes on a frenzied pitch and when it approaches the warehouse where they’ve set up for the buy, he’s starting to get concerned.

So are the bosses, who are on their feet as the door bursts open and the guards come in with a struggling package.

A struggling person.

Casey is short enough that it’s hard to see around the crowd.  It doesn’t help that the guards are riled and the bosses are starting to swear.

“We found him just outside,” one of the guards says.  “Picked him up in the new security sweep you put in place.”

This raises Casey’s hackles.  He is in charge of security and he’d memorized the checkpoints and sweeps.  He’d based his team’s positions on that intel.

Which meant--

Casey’s heart flutters and he ducks around to get a better view.  He shoves his way past a few people and finally gets a clear look.

And he almost stops breathing.

Because on his knees, bleeding from a gash on his cheek, is Billy with a gun pressed against his head.

And nothing is foolproof or simple anymore.

-o-

Their first solution is to kill him.  One of the bosses spits out the order and another is agreeing and a guard is about to pull a trigger when Casey steps in.

“Whoa!” he says.  “Slow down!”

The boss looks at him incredulously.  “We have a mole around our perimeter!” he says.  “We must deal with this!”

The others clamor in agreement.

Casey scowls.  “Of course we should,” he says.  “Which is why killing him is the stupidest option available.”

They all frown.

“Think about it,” Casey says.  “One mole?  Don’t we want to know who he’s working for?  How many more are with him?”

It’s good sense, and no one can argue it.

“So let me talk to him,” Casey says, keeping his voice loud and even as he steps forward.

The others grunt their acquiescence.  Casey’s earned this much.

It’s a vote of confidence Casey needs, because when he turns back to Billy, his certainty wavers.  Billy’s staring at him, his face betraying nothing.  His jaw his clenched, eyes bright in the glaring lights.  His head is tilted just slightly, telling Casey it’s not worth it.  One life isn’t worth a mission this large.

Casey keeps his face just as straight, narrowing his eyes as he approaches.  He doesn’t even have time for a nonverbal apology as he stands over Billy with a condescending smirk.

“Let’s make this easy,” he says slowly.  “Who do you work for?”

Billy lifts his head, mouth clamped shut.

“Don’t remember?” Casey asks mockingly.  “Maybe this will help.”

He kicks out with his foot, catching Billy squarely in the stomach, just below the ribs.  A shot to the diaphragm is painful, but not as damaging as a kick to the ribs or stomach.  

Still, it forces the air from Billy’s lungs, and his face goes red as he grunts, curling over with pain.  When he’s hefted upward again, he’s still panting, eyes full of tears as he meets Casey’s gaze.

Casey doesn’t flinch, but it’s hard because no matter what he says, nothing will make this easy.

-o-

Billy doesn’t talk.  Casey doesn’t expect him, too, because there’s nothing Billy can say that doesn’t compromise something vital.  

Of course, that also means that Casey’s going to have to beat the Scotsman senseless, which isn’t really an option, especially since that will probably just lead the bosses to conclude that killing him is the only apt alternative.  So that’s really a pretty bad option, all things considered.

Casey needs to make another option.

Billy’s bleeding more freely now.  His nose has been tweaked and is leaking blood, and the split on his lip looks more painful than Casey intended.  There will be bruises on his chest and stomach, but Casey has counted on his ability to place the hits well along with Billy’s prowess at letting people see what they want to see.

It’s time to change tactics.

Billy’s head is bowed forward, and he’s still heaving with exhaustion.  Casey steps closer, face twisted in a fair approximation of anger as he takes a fist of Billy’s spiky hair and lifts his head roughly to look at him.

There’s a flash of genuine pain in Billy’s eyes, but Casey refuses to acknowledge it.  “You’re too stupid to be with the competition,” he says, eyeing Billy disdainfully.  “So, what then?  Brit Secret Service?  Interpol?  A little scouting?”

Billy lifts his head but doesn’t say anything.

Casey tilts his head knowingly.  “That’s what I thought,” he says.  “So the real question is, how deep are your connections?  Is anyone with you?”

“I’m alone,” Billy says finally and when he speaks, his teeth are stained red, his voice raspy.

Casey lets go with one hand and lashes out with a backhand, pitching Billy’s head to the side.  It looks and sounds worse than it is, but when Billy looks back at him, there are genuine tears in his eyes as a red welt forms across his cheek.

“And you expect me to believe that?” Casey snaps.

Billy’s jaw works.  He’s putting together the pieces, catching Casey’s lead and following it as best he can.  “I was looking for drug traffickers in the area,” Billy says.  “So unless you have cocaine in those crates, I would suggest this is something of a gross misunderstanding.”

Casey kicks Billy in the gut, lifting his knee to connect with Billy’s forehead when he curves forward.  The force of the blow knocks Billy clean over on his back, where he blinks absently at the ceiling, clearly dazed.

“More than you know,” Casey says with a sneer as Billy writhes a little, mouth open in something like shock.

More than either of them could ever know.

-o-

It’s a shaky story, and anyone with common sense would see through it.  After all, Billy confessed too quickly and although he didn’t overtly declare his allegiances, no operative would agree to such an implication at the minimal use of force Casey had applied.

Fortunately, criminals are not exactly known for their common sense, especially in the heat of the moment while a critical deal hangs in the balance.  Casey’s new bosses don’t want to get caught, but they also know the consequences of walking away from this deal will be both monetary and territorial.  They can’t lose their edge in this, and Casey can use that to his advantage -- and hopefully for Billy’s.

He turns his back to his teammate, who is still on the floor.  He makes eye contact with his bosses and lifts his chin.  “I think this situation can be easily contained,” he says.

The look on their faces is a mix of anger and fear, which mostly makes them look constipated.  One says, “What if he’s lying?”

Casey gives him a plaintive look.  “He has the look of a spy,” he says.  “I see no reason to think otherwise.”

“What if there’s backup coming?”

“Then they’d be here by now,” he says.  He glances back.  “I assume you searched him for bugs?”

The guards nodded.  “He was clean,” one reports.

“So he’s flying solo,” Casey concludes, silently thanking Billy’s fast thinking that had him ditching the earwig before capture.  “The issue is contained.  There’s no reason we can’t move ahead.”

They all nod.  But one frowns and adds, “We should kill him.”

“It’s not necessary,” Casey says, trying to let his urgency sound like annoyance.  “And a little leverage in the way of a spy is never a bad thing.”

He shakes his head, more decidedly this time.  “I don’t like the loose end.  We kill him.”

There are no voices of dissent.  Casey could argue, but his cover is tenuous and this is too close to the end to blow it all now.

So Casey has no choice -- he has no other choice -- but to stand there and watch as the boss pulls his gun, striding over to Billy, who has been pulled back to his knees, and leveling the muzzle right at his forehead.

-o-

Billy’s face is richly colored with bruises, and the blood looks downright macabre at this point.  But the look in his eyes is complete acceptance, and Casey notes that he doesn’t even try to make eye contact.

That’s as much to protect Casey’s cover as it is to assuage him of the guilt.  Billy doesn’t blame him for this.  Billy doesn’t blame him for what’s about to happen.

But Casey blames himself.  Casey can’t let it happen.  Cover or no cover, mission or no mission, he can’t stand by and watch someone blow Billy’s brains out the back of his skull.

So there’s one option left.

Well, more than one option, but only one option that doesn’t involve ruining the mission and watching Billy get murdered by some gun smuggling idiot.

Without any more hesitation, Casey steps forward, pulling a knife out of his pocket.  He pushes his boss away and growls down at Billy.  “Don’t waste your time,” he says, jerking Billy hard on the shoulder.  “I’ll do it.”

-o-

At first, no one speaks.  Billy blinks up at him, blue eyes wide and questioning.

Then one of the bosses says, “Why?”

Casey looks up.  “You hired me for security,” he says.  “Any breach is my responsibility and I will deal with it personally.”

This is the right answer to give, and it seems to impress his bosses.  The one with the gun steps aside, holstering his weapon again.

They’re all watching, watching and waiting.  This time, Billy has no choice but to meet his gaze and Casey keeps his eyes open and determined, locked with Billy’s as he leans forward, knife poised.

Casey’s expression doesn’t flicker; Billy doesn’t move.  There’s the slightest hint of understanding, of forgiveness in Billy’s eyes right before Casey plunges the knife in.

Billy’s flesh breaks easily under Casey’s force.  Casey keeps a steady hand on Billy’s shoulder, holding him still as the blade penetrates.  He’s careful in this, not too deep but deep enough, placed at the optimum biological location to miss all vital organs if possible.

Billy’s eyes go wider, face paling.  His expression is shocked, even if he knew what was coming.  He sucks in a breath and holds it, not breathing out, not blinking for the long second that Casey holds the knife taut in Billy’s body.

The blade pulls out easier than it went it, and Billy’s exhales heavily as tears spring to his eyes.  For a second, Casey stands there, blood dripping from his knife as he holds Billy’s shoulder.  He wants to stay like that, to stay there as long as he can, to pretend like what’s coming next isn’t really coming at all.

But he let go; he has to let go.  Releasing Billy’s shoulder, the Scot crumples, hitting the ground hard, blood already staining the front of his shirt and smearing across the floor.

Coldly, Casey steps away, but his throat is tight as he orders the guards to take Billy back where they found him, to dump him just beyond the perimeter, and leave him for dead.

-o-

Everyone watches in tense silence as the guards lean over and hoist Billy up by his arms.  The Scot makes a strangled, yelping sound at the movement, legs flailing weakly as they start to pull him out.  His head rolls back limply, but Casey catches a sight of his pale face and pain-filled eyes as he disappears from view.  By the time the guards reach the door, Billy has stopped moving, and Casey can’t see if his eyes are opened or closed when they all disappear into the night.

The bosses nod their approval.  One slaps him on the back.  “Well done,” he says.

Another barks, “Are we still ready to go?”

The rest of the gathered crowd begins to disperse, getting back to the plan.  The meet is happening -- soon -- and there’s really no more time to waste on something like this.

Casey knows he has to get back to work.  His cover depends on it; the mission depends on it.  But as he wipes the blade of his knife on his pants, Billy’s blood shines starkly, and when Casey looks up, he can still see the smudged trail of Billy’s blood leading from where he fell out into the darkness beyond.

-o-

The guards come back alone.

They haven’t been gone more than two minutes, but it still takes all of Casey’s willpower not to flinch.

But he has a job to do, and it’s time to do it.  It’s time to finish this -- and the sooner, the better.  Because somewhere in the night, Billy is bleeding and alone, and Casey can’t do anything about that until he deals with the issues at hand.

Resolved, Casey moves into position.  “Do we have an ETA on the buyer yet?” he calls out.

People scramble.

“Come on,” Casey snaps, slapping his hands together.  “It’s go time, people!  It’s go time!”

One of the bosses comes up beside him, arms crossed over his chest.  “You seem ready for this to be done,” he says.

Casey rocks back on his heels and tries to look confident.  “You have no idea.”

-o-

The weeks of undercover work, the months of planning -- it all pays off.  The buyer pulls up as expected, and Casey stands guard while his so-called bosses make the exchange.  There’s a show of money and a demonstration of the weaponry and as everyone is about to part ways for the grand finale, Casey looks pointedly to the south and scratches his nose.

A minute passes as people load up.  Casey stands taut, gun in hand, when all hell breaks loose.

It’s actually a short apocalypse -- small hails of gunfire before people are quickly subdued -- but it feels long to Casey.  As everyone is being rounded up, forced to the ground, Casey knows what he’s supposed to do.

He’s supposed to hit the ground, play along, hold his cover.  It might be valuable later; it might spare him from retribution.

And everything else has gone so well, so Casey would be stupid to blow it now.

But for everything that’s gone right, there’s one thing that’s gone wrong, and it’s one thing that Casey can’t abide by any longer.

Dropping his gun, he nods at the nearest soldier.  “We need a medical transport moved into position ASAP,” he shouts, loud enough for everyone to hear.  Michael is rounding toward him, Rick not far behind.  They don’t know what happened yet; they might have suspicions, but with Billy on radio silence, they couldn’t know.  His bosses are looking at him, in shock and anger, and Casey just keeps shouting.  “And I want a cleared road to the nearest trauma facility, no questions asked!”

And Casey doesn’t wait any longer -- not a damned second longer, as he breaks into a run toward the perimeter.

-o-

Casey knows the location.

He knows the location because he was the one to provide it.  He positioned each member of his team, picking a spot for optimum visual potential and prime cover.  He picked the spots so they could be safe.

Billy is at the southwest corner of the compound.  It’s by far the worst vantage point, but Casey had instructed Billy that he was to watch for strays trying to get away more than anything.

Casey doesn’t like to think that he may have also inadvertently picked Billy’s deathbed.

So he doesn’t.

Instead, he runs, moving over the grounds without slowing or hesitation.  When he finds the gate, he pushes through it, taking a hard left into the underbrush around the compound.

Now, he’s counting paces, marking off the distance in his head.  Five feet, ten feet; he’s almost there.

Then -- Casey sees it.

An unnatural form in the darkness, well hidden in the foliage but so very clear to Casey.

It’s only a few steps now, but it may as well be miles, as Casey closes the last of the distance to Billy’s side.

-o-

It’s dark, but Casey’s eyes still see what they need to see.

Billy’s on the ground, curled on his side.  His legs are askew, arms in front of him haphazardly.  He looks like he’s been dropped like a sack of potatoes, and in the dimness, Billy’s stark white face is eerily discernible.

Casey goes to his knees, quickly rolling Billy on his back for a full assessment.  The Scot’s eyes are closed, his face unmoving even as Casey jostles him.  With careful but quick movements, Casey moves Billy’s arms out of the way, promptly ripping Billy’s black stealth wear down the front.

The fabric is heavy and wet, but Casey ignores that as he gets a good look at the planes of flesh on Billy’s torso.  

At first, it’s hard to see anything with all the blood.

Because the blood is everywhere.  It’s washed over Billy’s skin, covering all of Billy’s stomach and creeping up his chest.  It’s flowed down, too, and Casey can see the dark stain spreading to Billy’s pants and slicking the plants next to him.

In his head, Casey does the calculations.  Unchecked bleeding for nearly fifteen minutes.  All things considered, it could be worse.  Billy could be dead already.

And Billy would be dead already if Casey hadn’t planned his wound so carefully.  For this, Casey leans closer, using his fingers to wipe away blood and better gauge the jagged gouge in Billy’s abdomen.  It’s not easy to stab someone in vital areas and not kill them, but Casey’s never been one for easy.

Still, as he looks at the wound, he winces.  Though not immediately fatal, it will be soon, which means they have to move.

Ripping the ruined shirt further, Casey balls it up, pressing it hard into Billy’s stomach.  The Scot doesn’t flinch under the pressure and Casey finds himself looking at Billy’s face.

It’s blank now, unconsciousness with a firm hold.  The bruises from Casey’s fist are vivid in the moonlight, and Casey can still see the acceptance and forgiveness in Billy’s eyes before Casey delivered the wound.

Billy forgave him, which is funny, since Casey never had a chance to say he was sorry.

Sorry for picking the wrong spot, sorry for having to hurt Billy to save him.  Sorry that Billy’s blood is on his hands, no matter how good his intentions are.

There in the moonlight, Casey’s mostly just sorry.

-o-

There’s footsteps, but Casey doesn’t have to look to know who’s coming.

Instead, he keeps his hands steady, his eyes trained on Billy’s face, searching for any continued sign of life.

The footsteps come up short, and there a sharp intake of air and a muttered curse.

Casey glances back with a glare.  “Don’t just stand there,” he snaps at Michael and Rick.  “I need one of you to start making bandages and the other needs to direct medical personnel to our location, stat.”

Rick looks like he might cry, but Michael crouches next to Casey.  “How is he?”

Casey’s jaw tightens as he looks back at Billy.  “He’s losing too much blood,” he reports.  “The wound is bad, but doesn’t have to be fatal if we work fast.  Looks like it missed most of the vital organs, but it could have nicked his liver.  They’ll know when they open him up.”

Rick hovers closer now.  “Who did this to him?” he asks, and he looks almost as pale as Billy in the dim cast of the moon.

Casey turns his icy eyes away and forces himself to stay still.  “I did,” he says, plainly and honestly.  “I stabbed him.”

-o-

There’s silence, which is worse than the admission itself.  

Rick is gaping, but Michael understands.  “They upped their sweeps,” Michael says with a knowing nod.  “I figured Billy got nabbed when his comm cut out.”

“Smart bastard,” Casey mutters.  “Ditched his earwig so they wouldn’t have anything to trace back to you guys or the mission.”

“But why did you stab him?” Rick asks, a little incredulous, and it’s clear from his tone that he’s having trouble stomaching this situation.

Casey steels himself against the implicit distrust.  “Because if I didn’t, someone was going to blow his head off,” he replies candidly.

Michael nods.  “The only way to prevent a fatal wound,” he says.

“Is to replace it with a non-fatal one,” Casey concludes.  “But it had to look the part.”

They’re silent for a moment, eyes on Billy, eyes on just how effective Casey’s deception is.

“So what about those medics?” Casey asks finally, because he wants to be the one who saves Billy’s life tonight, not the one who killed him.

Rick nods convulsively, taking off through the brush.

Michael leans closer, pulling a fresh strip from Billy’s shirt.  Together they work, wrapping the new bandage around Billy for added pressure, to stem the flow of blood as best they can.

Through it all, Billy is silent, unmoving.

Michael is resolute.  “You did the right thing,” he says.  “You had no other choice.”

Casey knows Michael means it.  

Casey just hopes it’s true.

-o-

In reality, things happen quickly.  Michael quickly helps tend to Billy’s wound, giving Casey time to assess the Scot’s overall vitals and general responsiveness, neither of which are good, but as Casey reminds himself, they could be worse.  It’s only minutes before Rick comes pounding back through the night, a pair of medics laden with equipment right on his heels.

The medics are clearly trained and trained well, and they slip in besides Casey and Michael, neatly nudging them out of the way before either of them have a chance to protest.  They’re opening supplies and taking Billy’s vitals for themselves and after hooking up an IV, one looks over his shoulder and asks, “Can someone grab that backboard for me?”

It’s Rick who replies, scrambling with the cumbersome device, almost tripping and slamming the board into Michael before handing it off.

Casey is forced further back, and his feet step on twigs, breaking them in the night.  Michael steps back as well, giving the medics a wider berth as they position the board next to Billy before rolling him gently on one side and placing him back down.

It’s all happening so quickly that Casey really doesn’t have much time to think, much time to question.  He doesn’t remember to ask the medics’ assessment or provide his own insights.  No one even tells them Billy’s name.

Because as fast as it’s happening, it’s still slow in Casey’s mind.  Slow as he stares at Billy’s face, watches his teammate’s closed eyelids, hoping for a flicker of life that he knows won’t come.  Can’t come.  Billy’s lost too much blood, the wound is too advanced--

Casey knows all the reasons.  Knows it’s just as well, Billy doesn’t need to feel that kind of pain.  Knows that it doesn’t mean that Billy will die necessarily; knows that Billy’s still fighting this as best he can.

Casey knows all of that.

It doesn’t make it easier as the medics hoist the backboard between them, taking off in a controlled job back toward the compound, Billy’s still and lifeless figure strapped down.

-o-

And just like that, Casey has nothing more he can do.

After weeks of work, after a night of nonstop tension, Casey’s just standing there, staring.

Michael eases up next to him; Rick is stock still a foot behind them both.

Casey thinks back to how this started, thinks of Billy on his knees, staring up at him.  Thinks of Billy hitting the ground, pulled out with nothing but a trail of blood for Casey to stare at.

But it started before that.  It starts with Casey’s intel, his cover.  It starts with him telling Michael he can do this, that he has to do this, and that they’d be damn stupid to not pursue his leads.

And even then, it starts earlier.  It starts with Rick joining the team, Billy showing up in America with nothing but a deportation notice and the desire to make things right somehow.  Casey hadn’t been interested in him then, and it had taken more than one mission to integrate them into a working unit, but they are a working unit.

Casey likes the solitude of deep cover, but that’s not who he is anymore.  He’s not an alias, he’s not just a lone operative.  He’s part of a team.

He’s part of a family.

It starts with the first time Billy grinned at him and spoke in his Scottish drawl and Casey knew that his life at the CIA would never be the same.

And it’s not the same.  Nothing’s the same.  And Casey’s standing here empty handed to prove it.

Michael doesn’t touch him, but he stands closer still.  “You did everything you could,” he says, as a way of assurance.  This is what Michael does, Casey knows.  He’s the brain that holds them together.  Rick’s the heart and Casey’s the flesh and bone.

Billy’s the soul of it, and maybe that’s why everything hurts right now.

Finally Rick steps forward, closing his mouth and nodding.  “And he’ll be okay,” he says, but he sounds like he doesn’t quite believe it.  Still, he nods again, as if to convince himself.  

These are lies as much as they are truths, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.  Casey doesn’t believe in platitudes and he’s certainly never been one for sentimentality.  He believes in what he can do, in the things he can accomplish by sheer determination alone.

So this newfound helplessness -- it’s hard.

This time, Michael does pat him on the shoulder, a light squeeze that says more than any words could.  Casey’s not standing alone in this.  The others can speak their cliches but they still feel the same as Casey does.

Well, not the same.  Because they didn’t see the look in Billy’s eyes when the blade went in.  They didn’t feel Billy’s flesh break by their hand.

“Come on,” Michael says, releasing Casey’s shoulder.  He jerks his head in the direction of the compound.  “We can’t do anything about it here.”

Michael is smart; he’s appealing to Casey’s logical impulse to act.  It’s something Casey can’t refute, even when he knows that he won’t be able to do anything when he leaves this place either.  Probably because Casey’s done more than enough already.

-o-

Casey isn’t one for small talk, but the ride to the hospital is eerily silent, even by his standards.  There were a few loose ends at the compound, and normally Casey would be hovering, making sure the grunt workers did their jobs correctly, but this time, he doesn’t have the heart.  This is his mission, he knows, but somehow the details just don’t matter to him as much as they did at the beginning.

It’s Michael who requests the transport to the hospital, which Casey is pleased to learn is top of the line.  At the hospital, it’s Rick who talks to the receptionist, using the native tongue seamlessly as he figures out where Billy is and what’s going on.

Casey can’t do anything.  It’s like Michael says: he leads, Billy charms people, Rick translates, and Casey hurts people.

It’s a harsh truth that rubs at him with its irony.  

It rubs his mind almost raw as he sits and waits.  He always thought he had the best job on the team; he’s never doubted it, in fact.

But sitting there in that waiting room, Casey doubts it now.

-o-

Casey doesn’t lose track of time, although he sort of wishes he could.  They’ve been at the hospital for nearly five hours -- five long, miserable hours -- when a doctor finally comes out to see them.  Rick has to be roused from a light sleep and Michael winces as he pushes tiredly to his feet, but Casey is up in no time flat and demands to know, “How is he?”

For all of Casey’s bluster, the news is hard to hear.  The litany of injuries isn’t as bad as it could be, but it’s worse than Casey had intended.  When Billy was admitted, he was dangerously hypovolemic, which compounded all of his other problems.  The knife did hit the liver, including some of the major arteries and veins that feed in and out, which is what caused the most copious amounts of bleeding.

They think it’s under control now, but Billy’s vitals are currently unstable with the loss of blood.  The doctors have given him as much blood as he can handle, but even if he needs more, they’re walking a thin line with overloading him as it is.

In short, Billy is critical, and not even stable.  It’s a waiting game to see if his vitals come back into check, and until then, they’ve got him thoroughly sedated.

Weeks of deep cover, and this is the result.  A successful bust and a teammate near death.  

Casey tries to believe it’s worth it.

-o-

Michael orders Martinez to head back to the hotel, to get their gear secured and check in with the army to see if they need any additional assistance in processing their new captives.

This is busy work, and Casey can see that.  Michael is hoping that the time away will help Martinez decompress, let him eat and rest so he’s ready to face the next phase of this mission.

As for Michael, he edges around Casey cautiously.  He gives Casey space, but never too much.  He offers some conversation starters but seems unaffected when Casey fails to reciprocate.

When the nurse says they can see Billy now, Michael makes an excuse, says he needs to call Higgins.

Casey pins him with a look.  “Since when did we ever check in with Higgins on time?”

Michael smiles, a little sad.  He shrugs.  “First for everything,” he says.

It’s a lie, of course.  Michael doesn’t have to call Higgins any more than Casey needs to brush up on his martial arts.  But Michael is doing the best he can by his team right now, and if Martinez needs to recuperate, Casey needs to see Billy.

But as he follows the nurse down the hall, Casey suddenly realizes that he may need to see Billy but he’s not sure he’s ready to.  Because facing Billy is facing what he did.  It’s facing the fact that Casey put him here.  That this is Casey’s fault.

It’s almost too much emotion, and Casey avoids emotions at all costs.

But outside of Billy’s door, Michael’s words still resonate.  First for everything.

Taking a breath, Casey opens the door.

-o-

Deep cover is hard work.  It’s a complete surrender of selfhood and a constant farce that must be maintained in order to not only protect the mission, but one’s very life.  It’s trying and it’s stressful; it’s unnerving and it’s the hardest thing that any operative will ever do in the field.

And yet, standing there at Billy’s bedside is harder still.

Casey understands the medical equipment -- can even identify a great deal of it.  He knows that the IVs are replenishing Billy’s fluids and that the steady drip of blood is designed to slowly rebuild Billy’s diminished supply.  There are drainage tubes and a catheter, both of which run intermittently.  The leads stuck to Billy’s chest monitor his heart, while the clip on his finger helps measure his pulse oxygen levels.  The tube that snakes from his mouth is feeding him air in measured bits, while the one up his nose is going straight to his stomach to prevent aspiration.

This would be hard to see under any circumstances.  Billy is so full of life, so vital, that to see him reduced to this is simply hard to comprehend.  But for every piece of equipment, Casey carries the weight.  It’s his fault Billy needs these measures.  It’s his fault Billy’s here at all.

This is guilt, Casey knows.  Irrational as it may be, it is guilt all the same.  Because Casey knows what he had to do and he knows what would have happened if he didn’t, but Casey still can’t forget.  He can’t forget Billy’s wide blue eyes or the trail of blood.  He can’t forget, and he can’t let go.  

Billy has already forgiven him, of course.  Billy forgave him before it even happened.  

But Casey hasn’t apologized, and even if he’s not one for sentimental rituals, this is still something he knows he has to do.

Starting a Billy’s too still body and chalk white features, this is something Casey has to do.

It’s still surprisingly difficult.  His throat is tight and his eyes burn.  His stomach feels hard and his chest actually hurts.

The guilt is hard to overcome.  He wants to channel it to rage, but the only person to rage against is himself.  Casey doesn’t do emotions, but if he doesn’t give into this one, he’ll break to it sooner later.  Because he did this.  And it doesn’t matter if he had no choice, if he saved Billy’s life: it was still his hand and it was still Billy’s blood and Casey’s so damn sorry that he doesn’t even know how to function anymore.

When he tries to speak, his voice is ragged, catching in his throat.  Swallow, he tries again, determined now.  

“I’m sorry,” he says, and the words sound hoarse and foreign.

Billy doesn’t move; his chest rises and falls, but he doesn’t show any sign of waking.

Casey’s jaw works and he feels the emotion bubble up again.  “I’m sorry,” he says again, with more finality this time.  “I never -- I thought -- I just wish it didn’t have to be like this.”

The monitors beep and Billy sleeps on.

Casey laughs bitterly.  “So there you go,” he says.  “Honest emotion.  So you better wake up or all of this is for nothing.”

The IVs drip and the ventilator whooshes and Casey tries not to think about how true that already feels.

-o-

The admission of guilt is supposed to be freeing for the soul.  The acceptance of absolution is supposed to bring closure.

Casey struggles to feel either during Billy’s hospital stay.

Billy’s vitals fluctuate precariously throughout the next day.  When his pressure crashes entirely, they have to restart his heart and then determine there’s another bleeder they’ve missed.  

Casey doesn’t like this, because how the hell did they miss a bleeder?  How the hell were they digging around inside of Billy and just happen to miss something spewing blood when it shouldn’t be?  “It’s internal medicine, not nuclear science!” he yells.

He’s about to charge the doctor, when Michael pulls him back.  Rick is apologizing and Michael keeps dragging Casey away.  In the stairwell, Michael is heaving with the effort and even if his face is red, he’s not quite angry with Casey, but he is determined.

“You need to go,” he orders.

Casey makes a face.  “No, I don’t,” he says, trying to move past Michael.

Michael steps into his path and holds his ground.  “You are going to go,” he says again, more forcibly this time.”

This time, Casey’s face contorts in anger.  “This is my responsibility!”

“No, it’s our responsibility,” Michael says.  “And I know you’re carrying this burden, and that’s yours to deal with.  But you’re not helping Billy this way.”

Casey stops short, fuming.

Michael inclines his head.  “And that’s what you want, isn’t it?” he asks.  “To help Billy?”

It’s a simple truth that Casey can’t deny.

Michael’s expression softens.  “Then go,” he says.  “Get some rest.  Eat something.  Get your senses back together before you take your aggression out on the wrong people.”

It’s logical.  It’s sensible.

It’s right.

Casey hates it, but it’s right.

Dejected, Casey’s shoulders fall.  And he walks out of the hospital, feeling defeated.

-o-

Getting to the hotel is a blur of taxi rides and walking.  When he gets there, it’s clear Rick has been trying to organize and doing a piss poor job of it.

Casey doesn’t care.

He lays on the bed and determine to stay awake to spite Michael.

-o-

When Casey wakes up, he doesn’t know how much time has passed.  But Rick is there now, with some food, as if that’s some kind of peace offering.

Casey eats it suspiciously, glaring the entire time.  

“It’s for your own good,” Rick tells him.

Casey continues glaring.

“You need your strength,” Rick contends.

“Why?” Casey asks with a growl around a piece of toast.

Rick’s face lightens slightly with a smile.  “Because Billy’s out of surgery again,” he says.  “And he’s doing better.”

Casey’s eyes narrow.  “Better how?”

“Vitals are stabilizing,” Rick reports.  “Whatever they did in there, seems to have done the trick.”

Casey scoffs.

Rick blinks innocently.

“Modern medicine has its share of miracles,” Casey says, “but Billy’s recovery isn’t one of them.”

Rick frowns.  “Then what is it?”

Casey lifts an eyebrow, feeling a hint of humor returning.  “It’s just Billy,” he says.  “You can never doubt him.  Even when you doubt everything else, you can’t doubt him.”

Rick just nods and Casey takes another bite, feeling the food fill his stomach with a growing strength and optimism.

-o-

This mission ends as it starts: slow and methodical, but very important.

In the weeks leading up, Casey had done his research, perfect his cover.  In the early stages of infiltration, he was always on his guard, ensuring that he was fully integrated as he gained the trust of those he was looking to entrap.  There are small details involved, but it’s the minute steps along the way that make all the difference in the ultimate execution.

In the time following the bust, Billy recovers slowly and mostly in degrees that most people wouldn’t recognize.  First, Billy’s vitals stabilize.  Then, his body begins showing more signs of awareness.  It’s small flinches as the sedation is reduced, twitches and winces of pain when he’s tested by the doctors.

Casey watches Billy’s vitals, too.  Watches his heart rate stay strong and steady.  Watches the fever rise but never take hold before it eventually diminishes.  

He sees it in the doctors and nurses, too.  Sees the way the smile more when they visit, the way they talk to Billy as if he might actually hear them.  Sees the way the pretty nurse on the day shift almost flirts despite the fact that Billy hasn’t opened his eyes.

It’s all good news, Casey knows.  It means that Billy is getting better.  It means that this mission is actually almost over.

In this, Casey finds his control again.  Michael is restless with waiting, though he hides it well, and Rick is downright exasperated.

“Will he ever wake up?” Rick asks finally when they’re all sitting in Billy’s room.

“The doctors say it should be soon,” Michael says.  “He’s been through a lot.”

Rick shifts in his seat.  “But they’ve been saying that for days,” he complains.  He hesitates, brow furrowed with concern.  “I mean, what if he’s -- what if he’s not okay?”

Michael has no answer, but he doesn’t need one.  Casey snorts.  

They both look at him.

Casey shrugs, looking at Billy again.  “Being unconscious is really just like being in deep cover,” he says.  “You’re fighting on your own in there, but you know the team’s there to back you up, just like that.  It’s just a matter of holding strong until the end.”

They seem to consider that, eyes drifting to Billy as well.

Casey nods, feeling the certainty growing in him.  “And Billy doesn’t quit on missions,” he says, because he remembers how Billy held out for Casey’s cover, how he protected Casey even as Casey had to protect himself.  “Not ever.”

-o-

Casey’s right.

Over the next day, Billy starts moving more.  The following day, he opens his eyes and almost chokes on his breathing tube before Casey can calm him down.

He has a hand on Billy’s shoulder, strong but gentle, and he holds tight as Billy’s eyes stare up at him, wide and panicked.

For a second, it’s like they’re still undercover, like Casey’s holding a knife and not gripping the handrail on Billy’s bed for all he’s worth.

“You’re okay,” Casey tells him simply, holding the eye contact so Billy understands.

It takes a long moment, but recognition gives way to comprehension.  The panic eases and Billy’s trust returns, almost like it had never left.

They stay like that, eyes locked and unyielding, until the nurse comes in.  And this time, when Casey lets go, he knows it’s going to be okay.

-o-

From there, it gets easier.

Mostly.

Billy’s progress comes in leaps and bounds now.  They remove the tube and up his status to stable.  From the minute he can talk, he’s smiling and trying to joke, even if it sounds like he just spent a week trying to gargle glass.

Still, it reduces the tension considerably.  Michael starts to relax, talking seriously about when they’ll get to go home, and Rick starts acting like his usual too-well-intentioned self again.

And if Billy’s still pale and weak, he makes up for it with sheer fortitude alone.  Casey’s the type who grits his teeth and shows no weakness; Billy’s the kind who will laugh so much that no one thinks to ask if he’s still hurting or not.

He is hurting, though.  Casey can see it in the lines around his eyes and the small grimaces he makes when he thinks no one’s watching.

Which is silly, of course.  This is the ODS.  Someone is always watching.

But if Casey sees, he’s still not inclined to call Billy on it.  Because Casey’s not sure he wants to talk about it all.  If he asks how Billy’s really feeling, he may have to ask how much Billy remembers, and then they may have to confront the fact that the scar on Billy’s stomach is the shape of Casey’s once-favorite blade.

This is mostly normal, actually.  The members of the ODS know a lot more than they stay, and it’s usually easier to take emotions as implicit truths rather than explicit conversations.  Less mess that way.  Less risk of feeling totally silly and saying something that may be used in the future as blackmail when it comes time to pay a bar tab.

But this isn’t actually normal, and Casey knows it.  Because Casey still dreams of his knife in Billy’s gut, still sees Billy’s pale face in the moonlight.  He gets rid of the knife, but he can’t shake the feeling of hurting someone who trusts him.

And Casey has apologized, but Billy’s never heard it.  And Billy’s forgiven Casey, but he’s never gotten to say it.

As much as Casey hates to admit it, they need closure.  It’s the same principle as basic medicine.  Small wounds that are left untreated can fester, get infected.  The longer they go untreated, the worse they get, and the harder they are to heal.  Some great warriors have been taken down by nothing more than an ingrown hair that they were too proud to deal with when they could.

So Casey doesn’t want to talk about it, but he has to talk about it.  It’s more of a weakness not to than it is to face it head on, like a man.

At least, that’s what Casey tells himself when he blurts, “You do remember that I stabbed you, right?”

He and Billy are alone, just after lunch, and it’s probably not the best start to this conversation that Casey could have thought up, but he’s already said it.

To Billy’s credit, he keeps his face impassive, even while he blinks.  “Pardon?”

Casey purses his lips and swallows hard.  He has more time to think before he speaks, but he still doesn’t come up with anything better to say.  “We haven’t discussed the fact that I stabbed you,” he says again, slowly and emphatically.

Billy’s brow furrows slightly and he wets his lips, nodding slowly.  “Well,” he says.  “I didn’t figure that was really much to say about it.”

“So you do remember?” Casey prompts, because it’s never been clear to him just what Billy remembers and just what he doesn’t.  Billy’s never asked, though, and Casey would have suspected filling in such details would have been at the top of Billy’s list if segments were missing.

Billy’s face tightens a little, but he nods.  “Aye,” he says, and his voice lacks its usual humor even as he smiles.  “Sort of hard to forget that kind of thing, what with the bleeding out and my life flashing spectacularly before my eyes.”

It’s couched with a bittersweet humor, and it’s not meant to be cruel.  Casey tries not to let it show that it bothers him all the same.  “I just thought we should talk about it,” he says simply, because he’s not sure how else to put it.

Billy seems to consider this.  “Not much to talk about, is there?” he asks.

“I stabbed you,” Casey says again, putting deliberate cadence on each word.  “I need to be sure this will not hinder our future working partnership.”

“Well,” Billy says.  “Since this is a first, I do believe it is safe to assume that it’s more of an aberration rather than a worrisome pattern.”

Casey is not amused.  “The psychological impact of any injury is important to understand,” he says.  “There can be no unspoken hard feelings that will manifest at a later and probably less ideal time.”

Billy shifts uncomfortably.  “And now is so ideal?” he asks.  “I barely got upgraded to a bedpan.”

“I’m serious,” Casey says shortly, trying to control his exasperation.

“And so am I!” Billy protests.  “Because the joys of catheters aside, relieving myself while lying down is still a strange and difficult proposition.”

“You’re not taking this seriously,” Casey tells him sharply.

“And you’re taking it too seriously,” Billy returns, rolling his eyes.

“I stabbed you!” Casey reiterates again, louder this time, the emotion hard to control.

Billy blinks at him, taken slightly aback.  When he speaks, his voice is softer, more careful.  “You were undercover,” he says.  “That was not your fault.”

“I put a knife in your gut,” Casey insists.

“And saved me from getting a bullet through my head,” Billy reminds him.  “All things considered, I’m quite grateful.”

It’s hard enough to deal with Billy’s jokes and deflection.  His gratitude is simply unacceptable.  “I nearly killed you,” Casey says, with more vigor now.  “I nicked your liver and you underwent two major surgeries because of my actions.  It will be months before you are cleared for duty, and even then, there’s no telling what physical impairments may linger.  You may speak with a rasp for months and will undoubtedly have a colorful scar on your stomach for the rest of your life because of my failures in the field.”

Billy flinches slightly at the tirade but his jaw is tight, face determined when Casey’s done.  “It’s part of the job,” he says, his words slow and deliberate.  “You had no choice.  I know.  I was there.”

“It was my intel that got you caught,” Casey says.

Billy gives an incredulous snort.  “Casey, come now,” he says.  “I am fully aware that you are the self-proclaimed and undisputed human weapon, and I greatly respect those skills, but you’re not omnipotent.  Nor are you omniscient, despite your apparent belief to the contrary.  Deep cover is unpredictable.  More than that, it’s dangerous, and we all knowingly take those risks.”

“It was my mission,” Casey says, feeling the frustration build.  “And my responsibility.”

Billy smiles.  “You really think so poorly of the rest of us, then?”

Casey scowls, a bit surprised.  “That’s not what I said.”

Billy inclines his head.  “Well, you can’t be the only bloke among us able to put his life on the line for the good of the team.”

It’s a good point, and Casey sees it plainly.  Still, he sighs, shaking his head.  “My intel was bad.”

“And I should have seen them coming,” Billy says.

It’s too much, and if Casey has to listen to much more, he’s going to break in all the wrong ways.  “I’m trying to apologize, you idiot,” Casey snaps.

“And I’m telling you it’s not necessary, you git,” Billy snaps back just as quickly.

Casey’s mouth opens.  Then closes.  Billy’s point is blunt, and Casey seems to be having trouble making sense of it.   Because Billy forgave him before this began and Casey wants him to forgive him now, but suddenly he realizes that maybe the forgiveness he’s really looking for is from himself.

Because he blames himself -- not Billy.  He’s the one with the nightmares -- not Billy.  He’s the one who is having trouble coping, who has a festering wound that he keeps picking at, and Billy’s absolution can’t change what Casey’s own heart won’t budge on.

And nothing changes what happened.  Nothing makes it okay.  But, yet, it is okay.  It’s okay because the mission is over and the bad guys are in prison and Billy’s alive and wants to tell jokes instead of dwelling.

Casey made mistakes, but his team backed him up, and that’s how it works.

That’s how it works.

Finally, Casey glowers a bit.  “Fine,” he says, as crossly as he can. “But my apology is a one time deal.”

Billy nods.  “Duly noted,” he says.  “The next time you stab me or cause me other types of harm while undercover, I will expect no such words of unfettered kindness.”

“Good,” Casey huffs, but he feels better.

He feels a lot better.

Because in the beginning, he wanted adrenaline and danger, tougher challenges and greater payoffs.  He’d been hesitant to give up such perks.

But maybe, after all this time, Casey could realize that being a part of the ODS had its perks, too.

“So are we good?” Billy asks.  “No more post-undercover angst that we must contend with?”

Casey just looks at him.

Billy holds up his hands innocently.  “I just had to ask.”

And for once, Casey is more than glad to answer.

Comments

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: October 20th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
Coffee

That was really intense.
In a total positive way of course :)
I absolutely love the Billy whump and the Casey angst fest is just as awesome.
And I absolutely love the last scene.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 29th, 2011 01:21 pm (UTC)
billy earnest

Thank you :) By now, you know how I feel about Billy whump so I'm glad to share the love.

Posted by: Cathy (huntersglenn)
Posted at: October 22nd, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
Danny/Martin

I really like your take on how Casey - the one who is so steadfast and matter-of-fact about how some things can't be avoided (such as damage or casualties) handles what he had to do in order to keep Billy alive. It was interesting to see him going from being so smugly self-confident about the operation to the fear that he'd killed Billy after all.

Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 29th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
billy considers

Casey can be a very interesting character to write, so I'm glad you lied my take on him. Thanks!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 17th, 2011 08:18 am (UTC)

Wow, this was totally fabulous. I just discovered this fandom and I'm so glad I came across your writing first because you did such a marvelous job with the characters and all the other descriptions. It was really intense and I was practically biting my nails the whole time, didn't see the stabbing coming at all. Really well done and I look forward to finding more of your stories!

Sean

5 Read Comments