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Chaos Fic: Plan B 1/5

December 16th, 2011 (08:27 am)
Tags: , ,

Title: Plan B

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: There are some people who just understand whump. sophie_deangirl is one of those people. In the time since I've gotten to know her, we've found a common love in gratuitous h/c, with the bonding belief that there is no such thing as too much whump. It's a mantra we've lived by and written by. Over the months, I've greatly enjoyed sharing fic with her and stoking each other's bunnies. So this one, in all of its over the top glory, is for her this Christmas.

A/N 2: Much thanks to geminigrl11 for reading this over. Any mistakes that remain are my own because I am seriously a horrific typist most days.

Summary: Because they’re in the middle of the Canadian forest and they’re running from smugglers and Billy’s leg is caught in a bear trap and Rick’s not sure they’ve ever been this screwed.



-o-

Like most things that go wrong in Billy’s life, it’s really his own fault. It’s the same old story, really: Billy gets caught up in his own machinations, gets lost in his own head, his own ideals, and is charging ahead with such voracious certainty and speed that he never sees the consequences until they’ve hit him smack in the face.

That’s how he wrecked his bike when he was twelve, racing Alan Weems down the back alley near school. He’d been winning, of course, but while so focused on the finished line, he’d failed to see the piece of metal in the road. When he’d clipped it, it’d sent his bike sprawling, mangling the front tire on a dumpster and knocking him into unconsciousness when he hit the ground.

That’s also how he almost flunked Art History in college. He’d gotten so tied up studying the Impressionists with Margaret Flockhart that he’d neglected to memorize the rest of the historical periods sufficiently, resulting in a disastrous final exam grade that was only balanced out by his verbose contributions to the classroom discussion.

Most recently, that’s how he ended up decommissioned and deported from his homeland.

The details are still things Billy chooses not to think about, but what he knows most certainly is that a little foresight could have spared him the humiliation and disgrace of starting over with the Yanks.

Right now, he’s too busy running through the Canadian woods to pay anything else much heed. There are some rather irate drug smugglers somewhere at his six, and he and the team have been at it for a good two miles. They’ve got at least another two to go until they find anything resembling a feasible exit. Casey’s at point, Michael’s at the rear, and Billy’s side by side with Rick in their frantic escape.

Billy’s focused on running, feet pounding over the uneven terrain, but he’s also preoccupied with dodging bullets and positioning his taller frame in place of Rick’s should the unthinkable occur.

Billy’s so focused on one worst case scenario that he genuinely never sees it coming.

Just one step and pain erupts, seizing his ankle and pulsing through his body even as his ankle gives way and his body goes down. For that moment, he thinks about what he missed, what he didn’t see, how he should have been looking but wasn’t.

But the admonitions are lost in the pain and the world blinks out before Billy hits the ground.

-o-

Michael sees everything.

He is aware that that sounds like hyperbole, and while it’s not exactly a literal truth, it’s really pretty close. That’s how he’s managed to survive so long in the field. That’s how he’s managed to plan so many missions successfully, get the job done and bring his team home. Seeing is everything. It’s the difference between security and compromise, life and death. Bringing his team home or leaving someone behind.

So Michael sees their bust going south right before it happens, which is how he manages to stage the explosion to buy them enough time to get a head start. He sees the trek through the woods that they have to make and that Casey’s the one to lead them through it. He sees how fast they have to run in order to get out on time and in one piece. He sees that it’ll be close, but they can do it, because this isn’t familiar terrain, but they’ve got purpose on their side. They have a fixed path to follow; the drug smugglers have to make a guess and track them, which is never easy.

Especially for drug smugglers who know they’ve been compromised. Anger is highly motivating but it makes people sloppy. This is why Michael doesn’t usually get angry, he just gets out, and he sees a lot of logic in that.

He sees Casey leading through the trees. He sees Rick scrambling to follow. He sees Billy keeping pace with Rick, even when he could go faster.

His team is good; they’ve come together better than he could have thought. He sees that the bullets around them are hit and miss, falling farther behind. He sees that they can do this.

They can.

He sees it all, and even if he doesn’t see what causes it, he sees Billy going down the split second before it happens.

The Scot is bounding over a tree trunk with ease, but when his foot hits the ground, something happens. Something changes. Michael sees it, just barely, as Billy lands awkwardly. Michael sees his body tense, sees his knees waver as he pitches to the side. He sees Billy fall.

There’s a spike of panic in Michael’s gut, because he sees it too clearly but still doesn’t know what it is. What he does know, however, is that it’s bad.

It’s very bad.

Michael knows that but when he leaps over the tree and really sees, he realizes it’s even worse.

Because Billy’s sprawled on the ground, face first in the foliage. His arms are flailing, mouth open as he bucks in clear pain, because his left foot is caught, mangled in a sharp bite of a metal trap.

Michael sees it. He sees it and he sees how bad it is and he sees how this changes everything but he doesn’t know how to see it.

Because this really does change everything. It changes the plan, it changes the escape. Because if Billy can’t run, then they’re sitting ducks. If they’re sitting ducks, then the mission fails. If the mission fails, then they’re dead. If they’re dead, they can’t get Billy out. If they can’t get Billy out, then Michael’s failed at everything.

Michael sees this end, sees how easily it could happen.

Sees it. Refuses it.

Ahead, Rick has come to a halting stop; Casey’s looking over his shoulder, hesitating just slightly. Michael’s on his knees next to Billy, ignoring the way his hands scrape again the branches as he tries to check on the Scot.

It’s not an easy task, but Michael handles it without emotion. He eases Billy back, flipping him over efficiently even as it causes the Scot to hiss in pain. On his back, Billy is gaping, eyes wide and wet, more shocked than hurt. He closes his mouth and opens it again, face deathly white as he stares down blankly at his leg.

That’s what Michael is looking at, too, his vision tunneling as he takes it in. The trap is clenched tight, biting through Billy’s pants, which are already stained with blood. It’s a large trap -- probably for a bear, if Michael has to guess -- and it’s rusty, the anchor still half covered in the fallen leaves along the forest floor.

Above him, Rick gasps in shock. Casey hovers and curses.

Michael sets his jaw and refuses to blink. “Okay,” he says, his voice thick as he forces it through his throat. In his mind, he’s seeing the options, seeing and picking something new, something to make this work. “Plan B.”

-o-

Rick’s seen a lot since he’s joined the CIA -- and he likes to think of himself as tough -- but the sight of Billy’s leg in the trap weakens his knees and his stomach. He finds himself struggling to stay upright when everything inside of him wants to turn away and throw up.

He can’t do that, though, no matter how much he wants to. This mission has gone from bad to worse to downright horrific and the last thing the team needs right now is for Rick to lose it.

But Rick wants to lose it. He really, really does.

Because it’s almost macabre, that’s what it is. Like something out of a bad adventure movie, the improbable becoming reality. He wishes it were that simple, that he could write it off that quickly, but the evidence to the contrary is stark, staring him hard in the face.

And it is hitting him hard. Hard enough that Rick can’t look away, can’t move, can’t even get control of his thoughts as they fumble over each other in his head.

At first, all Rick can see is the trap. Logically, Rick knows it’s a bear trap. He judges that by its size and their remote location. It’s the only thing that makes sense. And, given the rusted prongs, it looks like it’s been there for awhile. Forgotten, probably, and clearly unsuccessful at catching its quarry.

Not so unsuccessful at catching wayward CIA agents, apparently. The entire thing is a mangled mess, the metal pinching tightly at the fabric of Billy’s pants and presumably into the tender flesh beneath. There’s a haphazard patch of blood -- and it’s growing, but not too much -- and Billy is bucking with the pain, face pale and eyes wide.

He looks surprised. More than that, he looks like he’s panicking.

That makes almost less sense to Rick than anything else happening. His teammates don’t panic. Billy doesn’t panic. He’s seen the Scot face down impending disaster with nothing more than a smug grimace and a cocky retort, so panic is entirely the last thing Rick expects from him. But there’s no other way to describe the shocked look on Billy’s face as his hands flail and his body arches desperately, as if to escape the reality of what’s happening.

He can’t, of course. None of them can.

Because they’re in the middle of the Canadian forest and they’re running from smugglers and Billy’s leg is caught in a bear trap and Rick’s not sure they’ve ever been this screwed.

There’s no clear out here. There’s no easy answer. There’s no ready solution. The smugglers are still out there and Billy already looks pale as death and this really is bad.

Rick’s frozen with this, but he’s the only one. Michael is holding Billy down, and Casey’s kneeling, trying to inspect the wound even as Billy writhes.

“We can’t stay here,” Michael says, and there’s just a slight tightening of his jaw to suggest the tension he’s feeling but not letting himself show.

“Getting this thing off will be tricky,” Casey reports somewhat grimly. “The catch mechanism looks to be entirely rusted through. We’ll have no control.”

There’s a yell off in the distance and Rick startles. “They’re getting closer,” he realizes. They’d finally managed to put some distance between themselves and the smugglers, but it’s still a scant lead and getting shorter by the minute.

As it is, this isn’t news to anyone, and Billy seems to bite back a scream, choking on it instead as tears slip from his eyes.

Michael looks at Rick, mouth pressed into a thin line. “And that’s our first priority,” he says, but he sounds as if he regrets it the moment the words are out.

“The longer this thing is on, the more likely it is for an infection to set in,” Casey reminds them, leaning in closer and fingering the torn fabric. His hands are already stained with Billy’s blood, but no one seems to notice.

“And if we don’t deal with the smugglers on our trail, we’re all dead anyway,” Michael says, keeping himself steady as Billy cries out, clearly against his better efforts.

“What are we going to do?” Rick asks, because he wants to know. Needs to know. He has no idea where they go from here and for the first time since he started this job, he’s not sure he trusts his team to get him out. Not because he doesn’t trust them but because the situation seems impossible. Insurmountable. His team is good -- really good -- but they’re not superheroes. They’re just human. Flesh and blood.

Michael looks to Casey, who is sitting back on his haunches now. “I’ll need your help,” he says to the older operative.

Casey looks less than thrilled about that and his eyes go to Billy, lingering for a second.

Somehow, the Scotsman seems to pull it together, taking a shuddering, sobbing breath. “I’ll be okay, mate,” he says through heaving breaths. “You do the hard work and I’ll just lay here, yeah?”

Billy’s trying hard to put on a brave face and he might have pulled it off if not for the obvious agony he’s feeling.

It’s enough to almost break Rick, so how Casey pulls himself together, Rick’s not sure. But the older operative grits his teeth and gets to his feet, looking at Michael. “What did you have in mind?”

Michael eases off of Billy, who tries to relax against the ground, and stands up to look at Casey, eye to eye. “A little creative planning is all,” he says.

Casey inclines his head.

Michael looks to Rick, who realizes then that he’s still standing there in futility. “I’ll need you to stay here with Billy,” Michael says. His eyes go back to Billy just for a second before turning to Rick again. “Keep him comfortable. Keep him quiet.”

It’s said softly, but Rick understands the implications. If Billy makes too much noise, it could tip the bad guys off. It could bring them right to Billy and in this state, Billy’s certainly not able to defend himself.

“Rick,” Michael says, more forcefully this time.

Rick looks up, meets Michael’s eyes, sees the intensity.

Michael holds the gaze. “Can you do that?”

Rick nods, looking at Billy. He sees Billy’s pale face, the colorless hue and the sheen of sweat. He looks back to Michael, nodding convulsively. “Yeah,” he says, mustering all the confidence he has. “I can.”

Michael nods, satisfied. “Good,” he says. “Just hold your position and keep a low profile. We’ll be back.”

There’s no further explanation and Rick knows there’s no time to ask. As Michael and Casey disappear into the trees, Rick feels his confidence falter. It nearly falls apart as he looks down at Billy again.

The Scotsman is trembling in earnest now, the visible tremors racking his tall frame. His eyes are wide and still darting frantically even as Billy clearly tries to control his breathing. He seems to have calmed somewhat, but his chest is still heaving and his expression is taut, barely composed as he endeavors to keep himself still on the ground.

There’s another yell -- closer now -- and Rick ducks down instinctively. Pressed low to the ground, he settles in next to Billy. Looking the other man in the eye, he tries to smile.

Billy forces a smile back, but it wavers with pain. “You don’t look so good,” he says, voice hushed between gasps.

Rick swallows hard, ignoring the sting of tears behind his eyes. Being in the CIA has continually pushed the limits of what is safe and familiar, but somehow, this is worse than the rest.

That’s probably why it’s more important than ever. It’s not just about the mission, Rick knows; it’s about Billy now. About getting them out of there alive even when the odds are stacked against them. “Have you seen yourself?” Rick asks, and he manages to make it sound like a joke. “Because you’ve certainly had better days.”

Billy laughs, breathless and choked. “We all have our off days,” he says, his voice faltering. He cuts off, a pronounced shudder going through his body. When it passes, he smiles again. “But I figure I have to share the heroism every now and then. Give the rest of you a proper chance.”

Rick lifts his eyebrows and keeps his eyes on Billy’s face, refusing to look down at the mess of his leg again. “Are you saying that I still haven’t proven myself yet?”

Billy offers him a lopsided grin. “Lad, there’s never been any doubt,” he says. “Why else would I let myself step into a bear trap if I didn’t trust you with my very life?”

There’s always been something in Billy’s conversational skills; he knows how to make Rick laugh, how to make him feel like the unexpected turns really aren’t so unexpected. He knows how to offer comfort when Rick needs it most.

And sometimes this annoys Rick because he doesn’t want to be coddled. Sometimes it frustrates Rick because he doesn’t always understand what the Scot is saying until after it’s proven to be true. But it’s always what Rick needs.

Always.

Which makes it even worse. Because Billy’s the one lying on the ground, shaking in pain. He’s the one with his leg in a bear trap, barely keeping it together in the onslaught of inevitable pain.

In this, Billy's comfort is just as much guilt for Rick. Rick shakes his head, forcing himself to stay composed. “That’s the stupidest plan I’ve ever heard,” he says finally.

At that, Billy gives a short barking laugh. “You wound me!” he says. It takes a long moment for him to pull it back together and when he’s settled, his face is even more pinched. “Though I seem to have done a fine job myself this time.”

It’s still said with humor, but Rick’s chest tightens. He hunkers down a little bit lower, placing a reassuring hand on Billy’s shoulder and squeezing lightly. “It’s not so bad,” he says.

Billy’s eyes focus on him, face twisted into a grimacing smile. “I see we’ve taught you well,” he says.

Rick frowns, shaking his head. “What do you mean?”

“Lying blatantly in the face of impending peril,” Billy says, his voice cracking. He manages to tilt one eyebrow. “It’s a noble and undeniable trait of the ODS.”

“I’m not lying,” Rick protests instinctively.

Somehow, Billy manages to show his doubt, even while in pain.

Feeling chagrined, Rick shrugs sheepishly. “Not really,” he says.

Billy nods readily. “I appreciate the effort,” he says. “A truer sign of friendship, I know not.”

Somewhere, there’s the sound of a yell and the report of gunfire. Neither are directed at them, but they are closer than Rick expects, and he dives down, hitting the ground next to Billy. The movement is sudden and uncontrolled, and he jars Billy slightly, who hisses in pain.

There’s more gunfire and more yelling, and Rick winces as Billy’s shifts, a yelp of pain escaping from his lips.

Frantic, Rick looks at Billy, whose face is twisted with fresh agony.

“Hey,” Rick says, voice hushed. “Just take it easy.”

But Billy doesn’t seem to hear him -- or even if he does, he can’t quite keep it together. He bucks again, his body shuddering violently as he cries out again.

The gunfire is closer, the yells more insistent, and Rick swallows against his growing panic as he tries desperately to get Billy’s attention. For a moment, Billy’s blue eyes lock with his, and there’s recognition but it’s gone even before Rick can appeal to it as Billy’s head goes back and he writhes, a low moan emanating from his mouth.

Rick gets to his knees, still pressed low as he pushes down on Billy’s shoulders. “Billy,” he whispers. “Come on, Billy, keep it together. Stay with me.”

He’s imploring as much as he’s ordering because the ODS isn’t great with orders but Billy’s not the kind to turn down an earnest plea when it’s directed at him.

But Billy’s beyond that now, his eyelids fluttering as his eyes rove. His breathing is fast and shallow now, and Rick doesn’t think it should be possible when his face goes from colorless to ashen in just a matter of seconds.

There’s a thrashing in the woods now, closer than Rick is comfortable with.

“Come on, come on,” Rick mutters, almost begging now. “Please.”

But Billy’s to far gone now and Rick feels his desperation ratchet up another notch. He’s out of options, though. If he can’t quiet Billy, then they will be sitting ducks and Rick’s not armed with anything more than a pocket knife.

Frantic, Rick looks around, scanning the ground. There’s grass and weeds and leaves and sticks--

Sticks. Rick scrambles, looking for the right one--

Then he finds one. A thicker twig, mostly smooth. Big enough but not too big and clean enough and there’s no more time to think--

He has to act.

Grabbing it, he hovers over Billy again. For a second, he’s frozen, watching Billy as he tosses, head thrown back in pain. His entire body is stretched and shaking, and he’s clearly only semiconscious as he moans, the sounds painful and loud in the forest.

“I’m sorry,” he mutters, and he moves without thinking now, pushing the twig between Billy’s slack lips and leaning one hand on Billy’s shoulder to keep him still as best he can.

Billy fights against him, body trying to roll away as he tries to dislodge the twig. But Rick holds firm, even as Billy’s face contorts and fresh tears spill out of his half-opened eyes. It takes another moment -- a long moment -- but the next cry of pain is muffled, cutting off entirely as Billy subconsciously bears down, teeth biting hard into the twig as he looks for any kind of respite.

There’s another yell from the woods and the sounds are closer still and Rick tenses as he looks up in time to see the flash of movement.

He thinks to defend himself -- to defend Billy -- but all he can do is position himself over Billy’s prone body and hope that enough.

-o-

Casey knows what’s expected of him. He’s supposed to be a cold and calculating human force of destruction and unparalleled self-control. There is no challenge to great for him, no situation too daunting for him to face.

It’s not hard to see how he’s come by this reputation, even amongst those he is closest to in this world. His actions have set a high precedence. And he’s taken great pains over the years to perpetuate such things to his own benefit.

Because as good as he is, the reputation of greatness is often just as important if not more useful.

But there, in the wooded Canadian Rockies, Casey suddenly wonders how useful it is when all he wants to do is turn the other direction and run.

It’s not a feeling Casey is proud of, of course. He would never own to cowardice any sooner than he’d acknowledge the fear that motivates it.

But there’s no mistaking it. Casey is afraid and the last thing he wants to do is fend off irate smugglers in the woods while his teammate is stuck in agony in a bear trap, quite possibly developing the start of an infection that could claim his leg, if not his life.

This fear is palpable and Casey suspects Michael can see it readily, but their fearless leader is no more about to mention that than Casey is. After all, Michael needs Casey to be at his best, to be 100 percent. Now, with Billy’s life quite literally on the line, more than ever.

It’s a lot of pressure, of course, which is exactly what Casey needs. The reality of Billy’s injury could paralyze him if he let it, but as long as he has a practical outlet for that fear, as long as there are more pressing things that require his exact and unique expertise, Casey can put it aside.

It’s still there, burning in his chest, but he can use it for other things. Like getting the whole team out of here.

The question is still how.

“So you said you had a Plan B,” Casey says, his voice low as he’s shadowing Michael through the woods.

Michael brings himself to a stop and takes a breath, looking at Casey, matter of fact. The moment before he speaks, Casey can tell that Michael doesn’t like what he’s about to say.

“A frontal confrontation would be a disaster,” he explains. “We have to catch them by surprise.”

This much is obvious and it doesn’t explain Michael’s obvious reticence. “And the problem is?”

“We have to somehow get them where we want them and then attack from the other side,” Michael continues.

Casey nods. “An ambush,” he agrees. “But how do we create a distraction to lure them to the right location?”

Michael hesitates, just for a moment, but Casey still narrows in on it. “Well, it seems like we’ve already got something pretty apt,” he says.

Casey waits for more. When nothing comes, he shakes his head. Because there’s nothing obvious that Casey can think of. They’re alone in the woods and the only variable they might be able to control is themselves. Michael and Casey are already otherwise preoccupied. And Billy and Rick are certainly in no position...

Casey’s mind stops. He cocks his head and looks at Michael. “You want to use them as bait?”

Michael’s expression turns slightly guilty but he holds his head high and keeps eye contact. “There’s no other way,” he says.

“Rick’s unarmed and Billy’s got a metal trap clenched around his leg,” Casey reminds him, unable and unwilling to control the vehemence in his voice. “And you told them to be quiet.”

Michael’s gaze doesn’t waver. “You’ve seen it,” he says. “No one can keep silent in that kind of pain, not even Billy.”

“You want to leverage his injury?” Casey asks, shades of incredulity and accusation in his voice.

Michael’s jaw works. “We don’t have a lot of options,” he says. Then his gaze softens slightly. “And we’ll stop them before they can get close to Rick or Billy.”

There is confidence in those words, because Michael trusts Casey. Trusts he can do this.

And Casey can do this. He’s taken greater risks before with fewer resources. But not with so much on the line. “We won’t have time to be wrong,” he says, allowing just a hint of his doubts to surface. The smallest tremor of fear escapes from him, and he almost can’t hold back the rest. “That wound -- it’s bad. It’s not bleeding badly now, but it will be once we get that thing off him. Assuming we can get it off him without chopping his foot off altogether. And that doesn’t even get me started on the two hours we have to carry him back through the woods.”

Michael doesn’t flinch; his posture is ramrod straight.

Casey can’t stop now. “That’s two hours of blood loss and untreated infection,” he says, feeling the emotion punctuating his words. “It’s a no-win situation. If not the blood loss, then the infection. He’s a ripe case for sepsis already given the conditions here.”

Michael takes a breath. “Casey--”

Casey shakes his head, eyes burning brightly now but he refuses to blink, refuses to stop. “We could lose him here,” he says, and his voice wavers dangerously. “It won’t take much.”

Casey knows what he sounds like; he knows the weakness he’s showing. It’s a scary and dangerous thing, but he doesn’t know how else to hold it back. Casey can face anything -- any threat or any danger -- except the loss of safety of those he cares about. When one of his own is injured, everything is on the line, and Casey’s nerves are frayed enough to show.

But Michael understands. Casey can see the fear in his eyes, too. The fear and the resignation and the guilt.

With that, Michael nods at him. “I know,” he says. “But we won’t let it happen.”

The words are resolute, but Casey sees through them. “You can’t promise that,” he says.

Michael’s not a human weapon, but he’s as stubborn as Casey and just as tenacious. “I am,” he says.

Whether or not Michael can keep the promise, Casey’s not sure. But he means what he says and really, Casey knows there’s no other choice.

They’re alone and unarmed in these woods and they’ve got a mere matter of minutes before the entire thing falls apart. Billy’s life is on the line and Casey can’t indulge his doubts any longer.

He nods. “Okay,” he says. “Let’s do this.”

There’s a flicker of gratefulness on Michael’s face. “You want right?”

“And you take left,” Casey says, feeling grim but certain as they separate.

As Michael takes up position behind a tree to the left of the path toward Billy and Rick, Casey finds a spot to the right. He flattens himself against the tree, controlling his breathing and honing his senses. He lets his vision zone out, focusing instead with his ears, listening for any sound or shifting in the forest around them.

At first, there are insects and rodents skittering through the leaves. A rustling of the wind above and the wayward song of a bird up high.

He focuses further, his concentration deepening. He can hear Rick’s voice, just barely, and Billy’s strained replies.

Then, from farther away, footsteps and voices, loud enough that Casey’s sure they’ve all heard it.

There’s another rustling and Billy cries out. It’s cut off quickly, but the moaning afterward is harder to control. It persists, rising and falling before getting muted, but it’s enough.

Casey closes his eyes and hears the distant shuffling stop, then shift. There’s a new intensity in it as the footsteps approach, faster and faster.

Billy’s moans pick up again before the crashing in the forest is close enough and Casey doesn’t have to look to time it right.

Instead, he waits until there’s a yell close by and the twigs snap and Casey takes a breath, opens his eyes, and moves without looking back.

From there, it’s all rote. Well-placed kicks and powerful punches. He disarms and he incapacitates and within minutes, it’s over.

Standing over the bodies -- not dead, but they’re not going anywhere -- Casey heaves a breath and looks at Michael.

Michael, breathing just as heavily, looks back.

For a moment, that’s all there is.

Then there’s another moan and Casey’s focus redirects. His calm vanishes, the cold certainty replaced by a flood of hot fear.

And just like that, he and Michael set off without looking back toward Rick and Billy. It’s not a far run -- especially at the clip Casey’s moving -- but it seems to take forever. He forgoes stealth and care as he crashes through the brush, breaking through the trees and coming to a sudden halt.

Rick and Billy are where they left them, ducked low amongst the forest. Rick is leaned forward, hands moving frantically, his eyes wide and afraid as he assesses Billy.

But that’s not the important thing. The important thing is Billy, who has gone silent now, deadly silent and still as he lies limp and lifeless on the forest floor.

From this distance, it looks bad.

Even closer, it looks worse.

No, Casey thinks, his heart almost freezing in his chest, it’s not just worse, it’s the worst. It’s Casey’s nightmare, the thing he can’t fight against. Because Billy doesn’t just look worse, he looks dead, and Casey can handle a lot of things but he can’t handle that.

-o-

It’s not in Billy’s nature to be away from the action. He’s not sure if it’s instinct or luck, but Billy’s always managed to find himself in the middle of action, even when he’s not trying. It nearly drove his mother to drinking when he was a wee boy and Michael has expressed frustration on more than one occasion when Billy has gotten himself into a less than ideal scrape.

Sometimes it just happens in a way that Billy insists is not his fault. Other times, he thinks he probably should know better but he’s like a moth being drawn toward the most enticing flame.

This time, he knows that the action is even less than ideal than normal. Where he’s at is a cloying darkness he can’t quite make sense of, but the action beyond, while it carries the promise of clarity, most certainly comes with a price.

For once, maybe slipping away into the darkness would have its definite benefits, but he’ll never know until he opens his eyes and finds out.

Sucking in a breath, he discovers the price as a sudden wave of pain washes over him, radiating out from his foot and threatening to swallow him whole.

His instincts are jarred into submission and just as he craves the bleakness of oblivion, his body rebels.

Just like that, his eyes are open, staring half blind into the new found brightness of the world around him. At first, it’s a haze of green and brown, the images obscured by the intensity of his anguish.

Then, slowly, he comes to distinguish a face from the rest.

He remembers to blink, brow furrowing as he does the best he can to focus.

It’s Rick, though it looks like a poor reflection of the lad. His face is pale, set with such profound worry that Billy actually puts the pain aside to take another breath to ask him what’s wrong.

The words never form, though. They stick in his throat instead as the pain increases, stabbing so hard that it’s all he can do to keep himself from crying out.

As it is, everything crystallizes. He can see the pine needles on the trees, the hints of blue sky through them. The bark is green; the shrubs are green. He’s lying on his back on the ground and it’s not quite uncomfortable but something is wrong, something is very, very wrong.

“Easy, Billy,” Rick says, and he puts a gentle hand on Billy’s shoulder. “You’re okay.”

There are about a dozen witty replies Billy can think of to such a statement under these circumstances, but his voice still isn’t working.

A movement attracts his notice, this time on the other side, away from Rick. There’s a touch on his arm, and Billy’s head turns slightly, his eyes tracking until they land on Michael. The man is smiling, but it doesn’t reach his eyes, and he looks tired and worn and Billy thinks he should know why.

Still, Michael’s trying not to let it show. “Rick’s right,” he says, then he glances toward Rick wryly. “For once.”

Rick makes a sound of protest and Billy takes another breath, still trying to rally his strength, which has apparently deserted him.

There’s someone else now, further down, and Billy strains a little to see Casey next to Michael. He looks even worse than the other two, but when he speaks, his voice is classically deadpan. “I thought you had died.”

Billy blinks, considering that. This time, he wets his lips and when he opens his mouth, he’s pleasantly surprised to find words come out. “Oh,” he says, the single syllable rough and experimental. When nothing horrific happens, he wets his lips again and continues, “My apologies.”

It’s not much of a joke -- Billy’s capable of far better -- but seeing as he’s not quite up to par, he seems to earn a free pass from the others.

Casey smirks. “I can overlook it for now,” he says. “So long as you can manage to stay awake and coherent for the rest of this.”

This sounds reasonable to Billy; at least, it sounds reasonable until he realizes that he’s not quite sure what "the rest of this" entails.

Or what "this" even is.

That stark hole in his memory is glaring suddenly, and he frowns as he tries to think through the pain. He remembers the mission -- the smugglers and the forest -- and he remembers running. He remembers running and running and--

His leg.

Blinking, his eyes move from Casey and down the length of his body. It’s not easy to get himself into a position to see but when he’s there, the sight speaks for itself.

The rest of it comes rushing back. The trap, the prongs digging into his flesh. It looks bad -- garish with the blood tinging his jeans -- but it feels worse.

In short, it feels bloody awful.

The pain makes sense now; he can trace the myriad of sensations to their less than fortunate sources. He can feel it entirely, each prong digging into the skin, biting through muscle and pushing toward bone. It encircles his leg, the rusty metal moving through his veins, going away from his leg and pulsing through his entire body.

The pain is bad enough that he feels it everywhere, in his arms and chest and head. Each breath ignites it, every tiny movement threatening to rip his entire leg off.

If not literally, then metaphorically, but given that Billy has a rusted bear trap on his leg, he figures he’s entitled a little hyperbole.

Michael’s hand squeezes slightly, bringing him back to full awareness. “You still with us?” Michael asks, and it’s gentle but cajoling.

Billy can’t help it if he obliges. Really, he’s a people pleaser by nature; he wants to be liked. But even if he had the inclination to the contrary, he lacks the strength to deny such suggestions.

Trembling now, he nods, tearing his eyes away from his leg and looking at his friends again. He tries to smile, and while he manages to move his lips in the right direction, he’s not certain the effect is quite what he hoped. “Certainly and painfully,” he reports with as much gusto as he can muster.

The response doesn’t seem to reassure his teammates, but it does bring the semblance of smiles to their faces.

“Yes, well, I’m afraid that’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Casey reports dourly, and he looks annoyed but Billy suspects the man is scared.

Billy forces a breathless laugh. “I do like the notion of better,” he says, shifting uncomfortably as the pain bears down on him again. “But I admit, I’m having trouble fathoming how much worse this can get.”

Casey shows no response to the humor. Instead, he shakes his head. “We have to get the trap off,” he says, eyes steady on Billy. “It’s going to be less than pleasant.”

Billy scoffs. “And my current situation is so grand?”

Rick seems to be fidgeting next to him.

Michael’s lips quirk just slightly as he shakes his head. “It has to be done,” he says.

The resignation in Michael’s voice is as certain as it is in Casey’s eyes, which is probably more disconcerting to Billy than the wound itself. Because he knows Casey and Michael. He knows the dangers they have faced and conquered without so much as a twitch of anxiety. This worries them, and so it worries Billy, almost more than the pain.

Gritting his teeth against the inescapable onslaught, Billy reminds himself -- almost.

Still, his team needs him. He’s already been daft enough to let this happen, so he owes it to them to make the grotesque aftermath as least stressful as possible.

Grimacing, Billy tries to find some strength to rally, but it’s more difficult than he thinks it should be. The pain is still intense -- throbbing and pulsating -- and it’s all Billy can do to keep himself composed, even while his body threatens to succumb to the overwhelming deluge of agony.

He doesn’t manage a smile this time, but he nods his head with certainty. “Since I have no intention of waiting for a wayward hunter to snag me for their wall, I would have to agree,” he says. He takes a few deep breaths. “So, should we get on with it, gents?”

It’s as much approval as they could ask for, and Michael and Rick look to Casey expectantly. The older operative takes a breath and purses his lip, nodding. “Okay,” Casey says. “We’re going to have to be careful and efficient. I’ve looked over the trap and the release mechanism is rusted through.”

“What does that mean?” Rick asks.

Casey looks at him banally. “That we can’t simply open it,” he says. “It’s not going to stay open nice and easy for us. We’re going to have to pry it open, hold it open, and pull his foot out before it clamps shut again.”

The news is less than ideal and Billy feels his stomach turn.

Above him, Rick is obviously aghast.

“Can we force something into the jaws?” Michael asks. “Give ourselves a little more time?”

Casey shakes his head. “If we could find something strong enough and big enough, maybe. But a stick or twig isn’t going to cut it and the time it’d take us to find the appropriate rock isn’t going to be worth it,” he says. “We have to get it off and get out of here. Now.”

He doesn’t explain why, Billy notices. Then again, Billy also knows why he doesn’t have to. Because if they don’t get it off soon, then Billy’s not getting out of here soon. Which leaves the reality of infection and blood loss and gangrene ever more present possibilities.

A little extra pain in the interim seems like a viable and, moreover, a preferable alternative.

Michael and Rick look less than sure. Even Casey, ever the decisive type, seems thrown by his own prediction.

Licking his lips, Billy nods readily. “Then now it is,” he says.

They all look at him.

Billy tweaks one shoulder upward by way of a shrug, steeling himself against the pain the movement causes. “Assuming you all are up for it.”

He almost feels guilty putting it back on them, but it’s the only way to get them to act. This has to be his idea more than Casey’s and it has to have his blessing if they’re going to pull it off without second guessing the entire thing. Billy can’t get his leg out on his own, but he can ease the burden on his friends, if only marginally.

Casey nods back at him. “It’s going to hurt,” he warns.

Billy laughs outright. “Given the current state of my leg, I think that much is a given.”

No one laughs with him. Casey nods again, nervously this time, before looking to Michael. “Once I get the trap open, I’ll need you to pull out his leg,” he orders. “Quickly.”

Michael nods.

Rick blinks, wide eyed and read. “What about me?”

Casey’s jaw works. “We’ll need you to hold him down,” he says, glancing at Billy by way of apology. “As cooperative as you are, the human body does tend to reactive violently to this level of pain.”

Billy blinks tiredly. He’s listening, of course, but it’s getting harder to focus. Harder to understand. Harder to do anything through the constant haze of pain. “Sounds perfectly reasonable,” he says.

Casey bobs his head curtly, shifting back toward Billy’s leg. Billy glances down just for a moment, watches as Casey starts to finger the metal, but the sight of the trap makes his stomach shift.

Swallowing back bile, he looks away and watches as Michael moves down as well. At Billy’s leg, he stop and smiles. “We’ll have you out in no time,” he reassures.

It’s a lie, but it’s a nice lie, and Michael needs it as much as Billy. So Billy nods back, trying to believe it for his sake. “I have no doubt,” he says.

On his other side, Rick hovers awkwardly.

Billy looks up at him. “Don’t be shy, son,” he orders. “I promise, my opinion of you will in no way change after this sort of intimate contact.”

Rick smiles, but he’s still shaking -- clearly terrified.

From below, Casey barks. “You’ll need to put pressure on his entire torso,” he instructs. “If he moves at all, we may have a real problem on our hands.”

Rick swallows, but nods. He blinks once at Billy before his eyes dart away and his face clears as he prepares for the task ahead.

They’re all prepping, Billy realizes. Michael’s hands are wrapped around his leg and Rick scoots closer, pressing down on both shoulders, using his full weight to bear down. Billy blinks upward toward the sky, sees the greens and the browns and the blues again, when Casey says, “One, two--”

There’s no three. There’s nothing at all. Just pain. Worse than before. Worse than anything Billy’s ever felt before.

It’s hot and it’s cold and it’s sharp and it’s aching. It’s fire and it’s ice and it runs through his body like a jolt of electricity. It makes his lungs seize up and his entire body jerk. His teeth clench down and he tastes blood and his entire body goes taut, head back and eyes unseeing as the pain becomes his only reality.

It climbs and it climbs and someone is screaming and his throat hurts and his fingers grasp at nothing as he feels his heart beat tenuously in his chest, each painful pulse reverberating in his head.

The pace picks up, spiking, and the pain crescendos, and before Billy can see the flourishing end, everything goes dark.

Part Two

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: December 21st, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
SO LOVE THIS! Thank you SO MUCH!

I enjoyed reading this story as it evolved when you shared every section you sent. The lovely h/c, the powerful friendship exhibited, the sacrifices, the peril just everything about it!! Thank you so much for the lovely prolonged suffering by Billy and you know I mean that in the best of ways! I loved every agonized moment! You know what I like and you made the most of it in this story. HAHAHAHA!

You know what my favorite moments are already, but I HAVE to at least include the ones I loved most in each part as I re-read and relive the wonderful moments.


Licking his lips, Billy nods readily. “Then now it is,” he says.

They all look at him.

Billy tweaks one shoulder upward by way of a shrug, steeling himself against the pain the movement causes. “Assuming you all are up for it.”

He almost feels guilty putting it back on them, but it’s the only way to get them to act. This has to be his idea more than Casey’s and it has to have his blessing if they’re going to pull it off without second guessing the entire thing. Billy can’t get his leg out on his own, but he can ease the burden on his friends, if only marginally.

Casey nods back at him. “It’s going to hurt,” he warns.

Billy laughs outright. “Given the current state of my leg, I think that much is a given.”

-- It's SO BILLY to take the decision and guilt away from his friends.


There’s no three. There’s nothing at all. Just pain. Worse than before. Worse than anything Billy’s ever felt before.

It’s hot and it’s cold and it’s sharp and it’s aching. It’s fire and it’s ice and it runs through his body like a jolt of electricity. It makes his lungs seize up and his entire body jerk. His teeth clench down and he tastes blood and his entire body goes taut, head back and eyes unseeing as the pain becomes his only reality.

It climbs and it climbs and someone is screaming and his throat hurts and his fingers grasp at nothing as he feels his heart beat tenuously in his chest, each painful pulse reverberating in his head.

The pace picks up, spiking, and the pain crescendos, and before Billy can see the flourishing end, everything goes dark.

--THUD. Need I say more?

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 22nd, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
Re: SO LOVE THIS! Thank you SO MUCH!
CHAOS team

It's such a privilege to share writing with you -- and I relish making you smile with the whump and angst! It makes the entire process SO worthwhile!

Thank you, as always!

Posted by: altpointofview (altpointofview)
Posted at: January 19th, 2012 05:37 am (UTC)
sam asphyxiation

A month?!?!?! I can not believe it took me a month to get the chance to read this fic?!?!?! Though when I read the premise I was sure I remembered you bear trapping poor Billy but I thought I should give it a look in case I read the email version and not the final posted fic --- cause you know I always read everything you post even if I have gotten an email from you (you know just in case you extend an H/C scene or two).

But 'oh my goodness gracious' there is no freakin' way I have read this fic before.... WOW!!!!! You are killing my girl... seriously I am dead!

The only question I have left is do I continue reading or do I save the next part to read in the doctor's office tomorrow. This fic would certainly distract me from the crazies. ;)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2012 02:24 pm (UTC)
billy bruised

You are behind. In your defense, I do write quite a bit so it may be hard to keep up with all the nonsense my muse puts out. Sometime you'll have to look at my 2012 to do list and see just what kind of insanity my brain is capable of.

And heh, I'm glad you liked this part. I admit, I had a ton of fun writing this part of the fic. Sometimes writing good suffering is one of my favorite things to do.

Thanks!

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