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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: Day of the Dead 1/1

October 27th, 2011 (07:57 am)
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Title: Day of the Dead

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: eviinsanemonkey asked for the team and Halloween. As a secondary disclaimer, I haven't gotten a good night's sleep in over three weeks now so the entire notion of writing and plot may be a bit beyond me just yet. Still, I hope this reads decently enough, but I make no promises. Much thanks to moogsthewriter for reading this over for me and catching my abundant typos because apparently, I type even worse after not getting more than two hours of sleep at a time. Remaining mistakes are entirely my own.

A/N 2: This fic references Halloween in various cultures. While I did a simple Google search regarding the basics, I certainly didn't put a lot of time into it, so if I misrepresented something, I apologize. Specifically, this talks about the Latin American incarnation of Halloween, but I have no real notion how accurate my portrayal is.

Summary: This mission is cursed.



-o-

It’s Halloween.

“I just don’t like it, is all,” Casey says in their motel room.  He’s seated on the floor, legs stretched in front of him while he works the kinks out of his muscles.  “The timing -- the entire thing is bad luck.”

They’re in Mexico, on the trail of drug runners.  It’s not supposed to be a hard mission, but it hasn’t exactly gone according to plan.  From missing their flight to their main asset ending up dead, it’s been catch as catch can, and even though Michael thinks he finally has the plan figured out, Rick knows it’ll be part luck if they pull it off.

“Don’t you think you’re being just a wee bit superstitious?” Billy asks, lounging on the bed.

“Casey hates Halloween,” Michael reminds them all, smirking more than a little.

“What’s to hate about Halloween?” Rick asks.  “In many cultures, it’s a day to celebrate and remember the dead.  It’s about remembrance and honor.”

“And free candy,” Billy interjects.  “Guising is the best of fun and my covert operations as a child kept me well stocked on goodies throughout the winter months.”

Casey just scowls.  “It’s a day when we encourage children to lie and sneak around in the dark while begging for freebies from the goodwill of the community,” he says.

“It’s kids in bed sheets carrying pillow cases,” Michael says plainly.

“It’s practice for delinquency and a subtle form of grassroots communism,” Casey says snidely.  “Besides, I don’t believe you should mess with the spiritual realm.”

It’s actually funny to hear Casey talk like that, and Rick does his best not to laugh.  Billy doesn’t, however, and even Michael shakes his head with a smile, “Well, no spooks tonight.”

“Present company excluded,” Billy interjects.

“Just a handful of drug traffickers,” Michael says, “and another mission down.”

Casey shifts position and shakes his head.  “That’s what you want to believe,” he says and looks so earnest that it’s hard not to believe him.  “But mark my words, this mission is cursed.”

-o-

The bust is different than normal.  As a spy, Rick’s used to remote locations.  He’s used to sneaking through back alleys and inner city slums.  He’s used to hiking through isolated rainforests and driving through endless stretches of abandoned desert.  It’s abandoned warehouses and luxurious mansions; rundown motel rooms and estate parties.

But this is a neighborhood Halloween party.

In some ways, Rick can appreciate the familiarity of it.  The garish decorations feature skeletons, smiling and dancing amongst gravestones.  There are lights hung and people milling about the streets; people are laughing in the streets, eating and drinking.

“Clever,” Michael mutters under his breath.  They’re in casual clothes, but they still seem to stand out in the crowd.  “Using a public event to hide the sale.”

“With so many people and so many things exchanging hands, it’d be almost impossible to notice one additional and less legal transaction,” Billy says with a shake of his head.

“They’re putting all these people at risk,” Rick says, watching as a pair of children dance by with candy in their hands and masks on their faces.

“I told you,” Casey says.  “This mission is nothing but trouble.”

As they venture on, Rick wonders if he’s right.

-o-

For the most part, it goes according to plan.  Despite the crowd, it’s actually not hard to make out their marks.  After all, while most people are frolicking and playing among the decorations, their marks are dressed in suits with somber expressions.

“That’s them,” Rick says, nodding discreetly toward them.  “Look at them.”

His teammates look.

Billy shrugs.  “Either that, or they’ve come to the party dressed as criminals.”

“Unoriginal criminals,” Michael amends.

“That’s the problem with widespread duplicity -- it makes it that much harder to distinguish truth from lies,” Casey says with a shake of his head.  “I really don’t like it.”

-o-

Casey doesn’t have to like it for the job to still get done.  They tail their traffickers, waiting until the shady group moves away from the street and into one of the houses.  This one is done up for the occasion, more than the rest.  There’s spooky music and a fog machine out front, and Rick can’t help but note how Americanized it is with the howling soundtrack being punctuated by grisly screams.

“Are we sure this is a drug deal and not the best haunted house in the northern hemisphere?” Billy asks.

“It’s a perfect cover,” Rick realizes.

“Complete with screams in place to hide any possible complications,” Michael continues.

“It’s a bad omen,” Casey grumbles.

A fake witch screeches, swinging down from a tree.  “Yes,” Billy agrees with unflinching seriousness.  “It really is.”

-o-

Inside, the place is dark.  While the exterior is immaculately done up for the occasion, the inside is messy and haphazard.  The remnants of decorations are crumpled on the floor.  There’s an electronic ghost broken on the floor, playing intermittent, strained chords.  There’s a mess of fake spider webs in the corner, along with an assortment of half-crushed plastic pumpkins.

“Interesting decor,” Billy comments.  “Though a bit too messy to be truly terrifying.”

“I think maybe they’re saving the scares for their guns,” Michael whispers back.

“The decor is just a facade,” Casey breathes.  “The real scares are the things we can’t see yet.”

Rick just sidles closer to his teammates as they move in.

-o-

The deal is going down upstairs.  They hear it before they see it, and Casey takes out the basement guard without so much as a sound.

In the dark stillness, they all pause for just a moment.

Michael looks at them.  “Remember the plan,” he says.  “We go up quiet but make our move fast.  They’re going to be armed, so surprise is our best weapon.”

Billy pulls out a mask and holds it out to Michael.  Michael takes it and Billy holds another one out to Rick.

Rick lifts his eyebrows.  “You don’t think they’ll realize that we’re not really ghosts?” he asks.

Billy shrugs.  “Unlikely,” he says.  “But they may think for just two seconds that we are revelers in the wrong place.”

“We need those two seconds,” Michael says.

Rick takes the mask.

Billy hands one to Casey who just shakes his head.  “Impersonating the dead is a bad idea,” he says.  “I, for one, do not intend on tempting fate.”

-o-

It works.

Upstairs, they open the door wildly, making such a ruckus that Rick thinks anyone would mistake them for drunken party-goers.

The facade lasts only for a second, but it’s long enough.  They swarm in, taking out the first wave of people easily.  A few guns go off, but it’s nothing they can’t handle.  Within five minutes, the traffickers are subdued and their marks are in custody and Michael is already on the phone, working out an extradition plan.

“Well, that went well,” Rick observes, picking up his abandoned mask off the floor.

“Indeed,” Billy agrees.

Casey scoffs.  “The night’s not over yet,” he says.

-o-

They go downstairs and out the back way.  Michael has scouted this out; they have a car waiting out back.  It’s all about the exit now, and then this is over.

Then they open the backdoor and the world explodes and Rick realizes just how over it is.

-o-

When he comes to, it’s suddenly terrifying.  His ears are ringing, but he can hear the rise and fall of screams and yelling.  Something hisses and something creaks, and somewhere, someone is cackling.

Rick opens his eyes and the world is skewed.  There’s rubble around him, but he can see the shining moon hanging in the sky.

He turns his head; there’s blood on the ground and someone’s arm is limply in view.  A smiling plastic pumpkin sits upright among the chaos and a string of cheap Halloween lights flicker in the darkness.

Then, Rick realizes how much he hurts.  His head is throbbing and it’s hard to see out of one eye.  There’s a sharp pain in his leg and another one in his side.  He tries to take a breath, but gasps at the movement and the world almost fades out to a numbing black before Rick fights his way back.

Straining, Rick tries to see more.  Sees a smashed skeleton decoration, broken bottles on the ground.  Sees Michael, eyes closed on the ground to his left.  His arm is bent at an unnatural angle and there’s blood on his face.  Beyond him, there’s Billy, half buried beneath the rubble.

Rick doesn’t know if they’re dead or alive.

It’s a macabre scene, and Rick feels himself getting lighter.  He’s drifting and even as he knows it, he can’t stop it.  It’s all fading -- he’s fading -- and his tenuous hold on his body slips away further until it’s almost gone entirely.

But it doesn’t disappear.

Suddenly, Casey is there, crouching above him.  He’s tying something tight around Rick’s leg.  His face is pinched and pale but when he looks at Rick, their eyes meet and Rick finds himself anchored in reality once again.  “Just hold on,” Casey says.  “Hold on.”

Rick blinks but doesn’t disobey.  He’s scared, though.  Scared because he can’t feel his leg anymore, scared because Michael’s bleeding too much and Billy hasn’t moved at all.

“Now is not the time to be scared,” Casey instructs, as if he knows what Rick is thinking about.  “This is a night to honor the dead, not to join them.  Don’t forget that, Martinez.  Don’t forget that.”

Rick doesn’t.  Rick remembers.  Even as the blackness comes, Rick remembers.

-o-

In the dark, Rick alone.  There’s no one here with him, and he sees things for what they are.  The mission went wrong, he knows that now.  Someone planted a bomb -- for them, for the drug traffickers, Rick doesn’t know for sure.  It matters, of course.  But not now.  Not here.

Rick’s not sure where here is, somewhere between the dead and the living.  Rick is connected to both, drifting between.  He’s not scared of ghosts and skeletons; he’s not scared of drug traffickers and bombs.  But he’s scared of leaving this too soon, of slipping away, of losing himself and his team in a fight that’s always been bigger than them.

They all know this, of course.  They’ve always known it.  But they each wear their masks and face the danger anyway.  Because that’s how it works.

That’s all they have.

But this is a night to honor the dead, not to join them.  Rick remembers that.  Remembers that with Michael’s plan and Billy’s good humor.  Remembers that with the fear in Casey eyes.  Remembers that and holds on.

-o-

When he’s awake, it’s not dark anymore.  The lights are bright, artificial.  It smells like antiseptic.

A hospital.

He opens his eyes and Casey is sitting there.  He looks haggard in the seat, scruff on his face and a bandage around one arm.  

Rick blinks and remembers to breathe.  His body hurts, but he’s pleasantly buzzed.  “I’m still here,” he says.

Casey stares at him blandly.  “No thanks to your own efforts,” he gripes.  “You have more stitches in you than Frankenstein.”

This doesn’t quite register for Rick, not with other pressing issues.  “Michael and Billy?”

Casey sighs.  “Lucky bastards,” he says.  “They won’t be up and haunting the halls of the CIA sooner than you, but they’ll be okay.”  His eyes divert and his shoulders slump slightly.  “Eventually.”

There’s more to that story; a lot more, but Casey’s not talking.  Rick tries to sit up, but pain flares and his vision fades.  

Casey is up on his feet now, hand pressed on Rick’s arm.  “This time, maybe you’ll believe me when I say don’t tempt fate,” he says.  “Just rest.  It’ll be better when you wake up.”

Rick doesn’t know if he believes him or not.  In the end, it doesn’t matter as the darkness climbs again and Rick surrenders to it.

-o-

It’s not Halloween anymore when Rick is really awake.  Several days have passed and Rick’s looking to be discharged soon.  Michael is awake and complaining about being cooped up despite his severe concussion and the low-grade infection from his badly broken arm.  Billy has barely come to after the surgery to repair the internal damage, but he’s already smiling and joking about wanting to go home.

They’ve been moved to the same room somehow; when Rick asks for details, Casey shrugs and says he challenged the nurses to a game of trick or treat.  When they lost the trick, Casey got a treat of his choosing.

Some of their marks were killed in the blast.  One -- the most important one -- has been secured and is already being transferred back to the United States.  Turns out, the bomb was planted by a rival cartel.  The ODS was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The nightmare, then, is almost over, but the memory is still fresh in Rick’s mind.  He remembers the oddest details: the smiling plastic pumpkin, the spattering of blood among the rubble.

He wonders if maybe the mission was cursed; maybe they did tempt fate.  Maybe there’s more to all of this than he thought.

This bothers him, maybe more than it should, even if no one else seems to notice.

“Maybe Casey was right,” he says finally, on the afternoon before he’s due to be discharged.  “About this mission.”

They all look at him curiously.

Billy gives him a sympathetic look.  “That’s always a dangerous thing to admit,” he says.  “Even when it seems to be quite true.”

“Besides,” Michael says.  “You can’t plan a mission around hunches or curses.”

“But we almost died,” Rick reminds them.  “And for what?”

“For the greater good, that’s what,” Casey snaps.  “And I wasn’t right.”

Rick stares at him.  “It went completely wrong,” he says.  “You said it would.”

Casey snorts his derision.  “If it were cursed, we wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation,” he says.  “We’d be dead.  Since we’re alive, I’d say that’s the opposite of cursed.”

Rick just keeps on staring, wondering if Casey is joking.

Casey notices; he sighs.  “Look, Martinez,” he says.  “The odds are always stacked against us, the going-ons in the spiritual world notwithstanding.  Awareness of such things is not to instill fear but to heighten one’s response.”

Rick finds himself gaping.  “But--”

“But nothing,” Casey says simply.  “There are no such thing as ghosts.  I don’t even believe in the afterlife.”

“But--” Rick tries again in protest.

“But being readily aware of such possibilities can keep us grounded, as it were,” Billy adds.

“You can’t plan for all contingencies unless you accept all contingencies,” Michael agrees.

“So you didn’t really believe that the mission was cursed?” Rick asks.

Casey snorts, settling back in his seat.  “Oh, no,” he says.  “I believed it was well and thoroughly cursed.  Or did you forget the part where we nearly got blown up on Halloween?”

It’s too confounding to reply.

“I just believe we’re better than a curse,” Casey says.

Billy nods; Michael shrugs.

Rick keeps staring.  Keeps staring and remembers.  Remembers Casey’s misgivings, Michael’s plans.  Remembers Billy’s masks and the town’s festivities.  Remembers the explosion, the blood, the pumpkin in the rubble.  Remembers Casey saying telling him to honor the dead, not join them.

Remembers that this is his team and that they’re still alive.

Remembers and believes.

Finally, he laughs, short and incredulous.  “Fine,” he says.  “But maybe next year, we skip the Halloween mission.”

“Much agreed,” Billy chimes in with enthusiasm.  “Because cursed or not, I’d really rather go around getting candy than getting cut open.”

“Here, here,” Michael says.

“I certainly wouldn’t complain,” Casey says.  “And while we’re at it, can we please forgo a Christmas mission this year?”

Rick cocks his head.  “You have plans?”

Casey snorts. “No,” he says flatly.  “But I can’t stand Christmas.  Pure consumerism designed to lie to children and exploit people’s sense of goodwill.  All missions on Christmas are doomed to be foiled by the over-saturation of synthetic cheer.  Besides, all those Christmas trees and lights.  There’s always a fire.  It’s worse than Halloween.”

Michael rolls his eyes; Billy groans.

Rick just laughs and lets that be enough.

Comments

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 29th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
billy earnest

I will see what I can do :)

(Moving is no fun--I hope it is as stress free as possible! And I seem to be finding some time again, so any betas can definitely be sent my way.)

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