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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos Fic: Plan B 4/5

December 16th, 2011 (08:42 am)
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Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five



PART FOUR

-o-

Casey’s not actually sure how he ended up in the waiting room. He remembers talking to Billy and he remembers the sound of the monitor. He remembers seeing medical staff and then everything went vaguely red.

Usually this is a sign that Casey has committed an act of violence -- always justified, but usually bloody nonetheless.

However, in this case, such an event seems unlikely because they’re still at the hospital and no one seems to be concerned about his presence. He knows what he’s capable of; if he had let loose, it seems unlikely that he’d be a free man in a civilian context.

He’s sitting in a chair, though, in what seems to be a waiting room.

More than that, Michael is next to him, watching him warily. “Are you back with me?”

Casey blinks and looks at the other man. “And where did I go?”

If he sounds like a smarts, it’s not intentional. He’s actually somewhat curious.

Michael shrugs one shoulder half-heartedly. “You zoned out,” he says. “Looked like you wanted to kill someone.”

Casey quirks an eyebrow. “Did I?”

Michael almost smiles but still shakes his head. “The only people around were helping Billy,” he says. Then he sighs a little, looking out at the room. “And I got you out of there pretty quickly.”

This makes sense; he doubts Michael could have manhandled him anywhere without the threat of Billy’s life in the balance.

The thought brings Casey back into the moment. He can still hear the sound of the monitors clearly and the only way to drown it out is to speak. “How is Billy?”

The dry humor fades imperceptibly in Michael’s face. “Holding his own,” he says. “They got him up to surgery pretty fast after you zoned out, so that’s something.”

That is something -- mostly, it’s a whole lot of Michael not giving him the whole story. Michael rarely shares everything he knows -- at least not without being called on it first. And when it comes to Billy’s well being, Casey has a sneaking suspicion that his team leader is trying to protect him.

On some level, Casey can understand the sentiment. On every other level, he also can’t abide by it.

He pins Michael with a knowing look. “I mean, how is Billy?” he asks again, letting the inflection carry its dangerous subtext.

Michael sighs. “I told you--”

Casey shakes his head, adamant. “You’re sugarcoating it,” he says bluntly. “I’ve been on this team for nearly a decade. I know when you’re lying, especially when you erroneously think it’s for my own benefit. More than that, you know that I want the truth and not some softened version of it. After everything, you owe me that much.”

He’s right, of course, and even if he’s not, Michael is perfectly aware of what Casey is capable of. He’s also aware that things like friendship won’t stand in Casey’s way of extracting the information by force, if necessary.

With that, it only takes a few second for Michael to relent. “He’s not great,” he admits. “The trap did some pretty bad damage to the leg -- completely messed up his vascular system. They’ve been trying to pump him with fluids, but it kept bleeding right back out. That’s why his pressure bottomed out.”

This makes sense. The trap’s teeth were wide and had the ability to punch deep. Given the second impact of the trap, most of Billy’s lower leg had been ripped up by the force of it. If the blood flow was cut off enough to limit circulation to Billy’s foot, the excess blood still had to go somewhere. Namely, right on out of Billy’s body.

Wetting his lips, Michael continues. “Pair that with his infection, and Billy’s pretty unstable.”

Casey frowns. “Sepsis?”

Michael shrugs, tired. “Seems to be moving that way pretty quickly. They’re trying to get ahead of it, but...” He trails off, shrugging again.

But they’re not having much luck. Not with the infection having a two hour head start.

Casey purses his lips and tries to keep his frustrations in check. “Do they think he’ll keep the foot?”

Michael’s expression doesn’t flicker and is set dangerously blank. “They seemed more concerned about getting him out of surgery alive.”

This isn’t an answer Casey likes but at least he can’t fault Michael for lying to him.

Collecting a breath, Casey looks around and realizes something else is amiss. “Where’s Rick?”

Michael is still mostly impassive. “He left.”

Casey’s brow furrows. “Left?”

“I think it was too much for him,” he says. “Seeing Billy like that.”

Seeing blood and trauma is rarely easy for a novice. Seeing it with someone you know, possibly care about, is even harder.

“Should we go after him?” Casey asks.

At this, Michael smiles ruefully. “I had to make sure you were okay first,” he says. “Rick’s not going to kill anyone. You, I can never be so sure.”

Casey can’t deny it.

“Besides,” Michael says, “Rick will be back.”

Inclining his head, Casey asks, “How can you be sure?”

Michael nods, and Casey follows his line of sight. In the entryway, Rick’s coming back inside. As he approaches, it’s clear to see that he’s worse for wear. His eyes are red and somewhat puffy, but they all seem astutely intent on ignoring that.

“You okay?” Michael asks instead.

Rick nods. It’s shaky but seems determined. “How’s Billy?”

It’s the question of the day.

“He’s in surgery,” Michael says. “We’ll know more once he’s out.”

This is the soft answer, the one Casey had refused. He thinks Rick probably knows this, but the kid doesn’t seem to have the energy to push Michael on it.

Of course, Rick doesn’t seem to have the energy to do anything. The kid just stands there, shoulders slumped, eyes downcast. He’s not just tired, he’s terrified, and Casey feels the pang of something uncomfortably like sympathy.

Grousing, Casey says, “You may as well sit down.”

Rick’s eyes go to him, blank and shocked.

Next to him, Michael nods. “It’s going to be a long wait,” he says.

This time, Rick manages to blink and Casey reminds himself how young Rick is, how green he is, how he’s never been the one in a hospital waiting room before.

Sighing, Casey musters up what he imagines must be compassion. “You don’t get extra points for standing while you wait,” he says. “Besides, I think Billy would want us to be comfortable while he tortures us with this.”

It makes Rick smile, but his eyes are still haunted. He wants to believe it, but doesn’t know how.

Still, the kid turns, settling himself into the seat flanking Casey. As he breathes out, finding a new rhythm, Casey really can’t blame him.

-o-

It’s not so uncommon, really, to feel disconnected.

This hasn’t exactly been a lifelong problem for Billy, but it certainly is an occupational hazard. Spies are on the go, moving from one point to the next, minimizing connections and segmenting themselves off. Billy’s good at this, which is why he’s survived so long in the spy game.

But there’s a distinction worth noting, a difference between separating oneself and being forced out. Billy’s experienced both with unfortunate gusto and while he may prefer the former to the latter, neither is truly very enjoyable. The results are still the same; one just gives him the illusion of power.

The thing is, though power is an illusion. Billy likes his illusions all around and he plays them up for all he’s worth. He tells himself that if he cuts people out than no one will remember that he was cut out first. If he’s a man who chooses no home than no one will know he has no home to go to.

None of that changes the fact that he doesn’t have a home. He doesn’t have a country. That was taken from him.

There are reasons why, and Billy knows them all. Knows his blame and knows his fault. Knows the things he should have done, the things he wishes he’d changed. Sometimes, he thinks he could still fix it, go back and right the wrongs, let everyone see the truth about what happened.

At the time, he’d been too young, too scared, and ultimately, too stupid. He’d given up without a fight because he’d believed he had nothing left to lose.

It’d been a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts and Billy’s been disconnected ever since.

It’s like that now, but different, and he’s still floating, looking for something, someone. Anything, anyone.

“Mr. Collins, can you hear me?” someone is asking.

Mr. Collins, are you listening to me,
his supervisor had said. You are accountable for these actions. You will pay the price.

Billy tries to shakes his head, tries to pull away.

“Mr. Collins, can you open your eyes,” someone repeats.

Mr. Collins, you have been charged and found guilty. Because of your service, we are willing to waive the normal punishments.

“Mr. Collins, I need you to answer me.”

Billy’s breath catches and he wants to comply, but he doesn’t know how.

Mr. Collins, do you have answers that can change our conclusions?

He doesn’t know.

“Mr. Collins, you just had surgery.”

Mr. Collins, you are hereby expelled from this service and banned from this country.

“Mr. Collins, can you hear me?”

Billy can but he doesn’t want to. Sometimes he fights these things; sometimes, he just doesn’t.

It’s how he ended up on a plane to America, his guilt keeping him silent even when he should have spoken. It’s how he’s in this hospital bed and he doesn’t want to know what comes next, not even as his consciousness fades and a monitor wails and everything goes blank.

-o-

He doesn’t know how Fay does it, but she manages to finagle the paperwork and get them listed as part of Billy’s next of kin. He doesn’t know how legal that is; then again, he doesn’t really care. He makes a mental note to get her something as a thank you, and he wonders if there’s something to her willingness that extends beyond professional courtesy.

There’s no time for that kind of speculation now, though.

In fact, he’s not even sure how grateful he is at the moment as the doctor delineates the details.

“It’s been touch and go ever since we got him on the table,” the man explains. He’s older and rather bland-looking. He recites the details of Billy’s condition as though he’s rattling off baseball scores. “We nearly lost him again in post op, but with a dose of atropine, we’ve managed to keep his heart rate stabilized.”

Michael nods, his throat tight. “How did the surgery go?”

The man collects a breath. “Not as well as we might have hoped,” he admits.

It’s a candor Michael appreciates in theory but doesn’t know quite what to do with in reality.

“The vascular damage was extensive,” he reports. “Worse than we had anticipated. We had to do some significant reconstruction in order to restore flow to his foot. Even though we did manage to fix most of the damage, the amount of time it took caused extensive blood loss and prolonged a loss of circulation to the foot, which has become noticeably infected.”

This is expected,
Michael reminds himself. They knew this much was coming. “Will the foot recover?”

The man shrugs. “Hard to say,” he says. “If the infection keeps spreading throughout the tissue of the wound, we may have to consider an amputation in order to keep it from killing him.”

That’s hard to hear. Michael tries to control the swell of nausea in his gut.

“But, if I may be honest, the loss of the foot is the least of our current concerns,” he says. “The depth of the infection has already taken hold and sepsis is setting in throughout his body. It’s affecting his breathing and his digestive functions and is putting a significant strain on his heart.”

It’s all Michael can do to keep himself together. They’ve been waiting a long time -- longer than Michael cares to recount -- and with the trek through the woods and the mission before that -- he’s running low on sleep and the stress is starting to weigh heavily on him.

“Right now we’re keeping him full on antibiotics and monitoring his condition closely,” the doctor continues. “He’s still heavily sedated and with his fever rising, I’m not sure we’ll see him wake. We will probably have to go back in a few days and continue to debride the infected flesh and see if we can keep the infection from spreading. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Waiting. It’s never particularly been Michael strength.

Still, he doesn’t have a lot of options. So he forces a smile. “Thank you,” he murmurs before he turns away. There are more questions, he’s sure, but he’s not entirely certain he wants the answers.

Normally, the details matter. Today, they don’t. It just matters that Billy’s still in this hospital, still fighting for his life. And Michael has to be there for him. For all of them.

He’s sent Casey and Rick to eat something, and he’s glad he did. It gives him time to process what he’s been told, to understand what it means.

It gives him time to face Billy, to talk to Billy.

He finds his way back into Billy’s ICU room. It’s not very private, and Michael feels more than somewhat self conscious as he tries to ease into his teammate’s bedside. The Scotsman looks worse, which Michael would have thought was impossible.

His skin is waxy and lifeless, his face still mostly hidden by the oxygen mask. There are no visible wounds on his face, which is hardly typical of their hospital visits. Even the bandage around his leg as been minimized. It doesn’t seem like enough to make Billy so weak.

But Billy is weak. His heart beats fast and Michael can see the fluctuations of his blood pressure showing on the screen. It’s the unresponsiveness that’s hardest, though. Billy’s never still unless his body forces it upon him, and Michael’s never seen Billy look quite this withdrawn before.

It’s an awkward thing to be standing there. He doesn’t know if he should touch Billy’s arm, offer some kind of reassurance. Billy would appreciate some conversation, though; the Scot always did.

So Michael forces a smile and shrugs. “The doctor says you’ve got a lot of work to do,” he says.

Billy doesn’t move.

Michael swallows hard. “I might say that’s cause for concern; I’ve seen how unproductive you can be,” he says lightly, trying to make the joke.

Billy would laugh, if he were awake. But since he’s not, the humor echoes painfully.

“But you always do what needs to be done,” Michael continues, more seriously now. “Especially when the situation is desperate.”

And the situation is desperate now. Michael doesn’t say that; he’s afraid to. He thinks Billy probably knows.

“And I need you to wake up,” he says, his voice wavering just slightly. “It’s hard to do this job without someone to waste time so effectively. I mean, can you imagine the office on a slow day? Or a long transatlantic flight?”

The questions go unanswered, but Michael’s pretty sure he already knows.

His exhaustion is getting the best of him. He collects a ragged breath and lets it out. “Mostly, you just need to beat this,” he says, and he doesn’t try to hide the worry or the fear. “I mean, I don’t really have a plan B here. You just have to get better.”

Billy sleeps on, seemingly unaffected.

And Michael stands there, hoping Billy understands. Hoping Billy has it in him to keep fighting.

Because Michael’s not sure what will happen if he doesn’t. More than that, he’s pretty sure this is one thing he doesn’t want to know.

-o-

Most of the time, Rick likes doing things by the book. He’s spent his life studying the book, literally and figuratively. He’d always labored under the notion that to be a dutiful civil servant, he needed to fully understand the laws of his country.

Of course, then he’d started working for the ODS and that had challenged everything. He was learning -- still is, if he’s honest -- that sometimes breaking the rules is the best way to protect them.

Even if he’s gotten easier to ignore the book in select circumstances, it’s still Rick’s nature to follow orders and fall in line.

So no one is more surprised than Rick himself when he flatly refuses to take another turn out to sleep when it’s clearly Michael’s time to get some shuteye. Still, he’d stood his ground and insisted -- practically demanded -- to be allowed to hold the vigil at Billy’s bedside. He’s just as much a part of this team as any of them, and this is Rick’s responsibility, too.

Michael had looked surprised; Casey had been shocked. And now, here Rick is by Billy’s bedside, having thoroughly won his point.

But, as he waits, as he watches, it doesn’t feel much like a victory.

Billy hasn’t moved since Rick sat down, and the longer Billy is still, the more Rick feels the pressing need to move. He’s made up his mind, though. He’s not going to bolt again, no matter how pressing the desire. Billy’s been there for him, even when things got rough. And if Rick wants to be an equal part of the team, then this is what it’s about.

Being there. No matter what.

So he sits. He watches. Billy breathes, puffs of air on the oxygen mask. His chest rises and falls. His skin is pale save for the fever, which has settled in his cheeks along with the sweat that accumulates on his forehead.

This entire thing is a fluke. An accident. An old bear trap and one unlucky step. Rick wonders about the odds of that kind of thing but has to give up. The more ridiculous the situation feels, the harder it is for Rick to accept it.

And Rick has to accept it. Just like he has to accept that Billy may still lose his foot, may still die. All of this -- everything they did to get Billy out -- could have been for nothing.

He keeps circling back to this revelation, but it never gets easier.

“You talk about teachable moments,” Rick finds himself musing out loud. “And if that’s what this is--” Rick gestures vaguely to the cubicle. “--then we really need to talk about your delivery. This is worse than your crash course on pursuit driving. Literally!”

He thinks Billy would at least chuckle at that, if he were awake.

The heart monitor keeps beeping and Billy lies still.

Rick sighs, feeling even more deflated. He ducks his head down for a moment, looking at his shoes, which are still dirty from their trek. The thought isn’t too reassuring, so he looks up again, weary. “I’m serious,” he continues, as if Billy might be able to hear him. “If you want this to mean anything, you’re going to have to wake up and spell it out for me.”

It’s not often that Billy refuses an opportunity to orate, especially if it involves the passing on of what Billy deems wisdom. In fact, it’s not often that Billy overlooks the chance to talk at all. That’s always been somewhat annoying to Rick. Entertaining at times, this is true, but after hours of hearing stories on plane rides and long stakeouts, it can get grating to hear Billy’s perpetually chipper Scottish lilt in his ear.

He has taken for granted how much it means, though. Not the words, which are often purposefully superfluous, but the idea of it. Billy’s talking is everything from a much-needed distraction to a brilliantly grounding technique. When Billy gabs, Rick calms down, doesn’t get overworked, and knows things are going to be okay.

Rick needs that now.

But Billy’s still unconscious in the bed, air coming in fast, even puffs.

And Rick doesn’t know what to do. Doesn’t even know what to say. His voice is stuck in his throat and tears are burning his eyes. He’s either going to cry or leave but then someone comes around the partition and smiles.

Rick vaguely recognizes the nurse -- Sophie, if he remembers correctly from her introduction at shift change. She moves to Billy easily but engages Rick, too. “Time to check the bandage, I’m afraid,” she says.

Rick swallows, shifting awkwardly. “Do I need to--?” he asks, nodding toward the exit.

She shakes her head good-naturedly. “Not if you don’t want to,” she says, moving about the bed. She makes note of Billy’s vitals before pulling the sheet up to reveal his bandaged leg. “It is a bit messy, though, so if you’ve got a weak stomach, you may want to look away.”

“No,” Rick says, rallying his courage. “I’m okay.”

She smiles brightly at him. “Good,” she says. Then she turns to Billy. “A little company is always better in these types of situations.”

Billy, as expected, doesn’t respond, but that doesn’t stop Sophie from pulling at the bandage, unwinding it carefully as she lifts Billy’s leg slightly to unwrap it. It doesn’t take long until the layers show signs of blood and pus, the color of the bandage greenish red as she peels the last bit away.

“Now, let’s take a look,” she says easily, putting the sullied bandage to the side. She leans closer, looking closely at the wound.

Rick doesn’t want to see it -- not really -- but he finds himself unable to look away. It’s worse than he remembers -- even worse than when Billy’s foot was first trapped. The skin is red and inflamed, still weeping with pus. Some of the tissue looks darker, unnatural even to Rick’s untrained eye.

Sophie is frowning, fingering it lightly. Then she nods to herself before pulling out a fresh bandage.

As she sets herself to wrapping the foot again, Rick looks at her anxiously. “Well?” he asks.

This time, when she smiles at him, her face is tight. “I’ll have the doctor come look at it,” she says.

When it becomes clear she’s not going to say more, Rick presses her. “But how does it look?”

She finishes wrapping it, tying the bandage off. “You should really talk to the doctor.”

Rick feels his self-control slipping, just a little. “Just tell me how it looks.”

She’s on her feet now, pulling off her gloves. There’s a moment of hesitation but when she meets Rick’s gaze, she seems to understand. “Not good,” she says. “The dead tissue is spreading and the infection is advancing. I’m going to talk to the doctor about pushing up his second surgery to see if we can control the progression.”

The problem with demanding the truth is that sometimes you get it. And then, you have to deal with it.

Her smile is sympathetic now. “The doctor will have more information,” she says, turning her gaze wistfully to Billy. “And he’s got good people around him.” She looks back to Rick. “That’s half the battle.”

She leaves, and Rick finds himself alone again at Billy’s bedside. As he looks down at the Scot’s weakening body, he wonders what the other half is and if it’ll be enough to win this after all.

-o-

Casey’s a realist.

This is contrary to what most people think. He’s branded as the negative one, and while he doesn’t often refute that assumption, it is somewhat erroneous. He just prefers reality, even in its starkest forms. It’s not his fault that plain truth of a situation is usually bleak.

So, Casey is just being realistic when he realizes that Billy is probably not going to survive.

The doctor’s report following the second surgery had been grim, to say the least. It had been a balancing act of getting rid of the dead flesh while not leaving too much of the wound open. If they don’t clean out enough, the rot will spread and put Billy’s entire system at risk. If they take everything, there won’t be enough left of Billy’s ankle and foot to save and the prolonged yawning wound will simply be ripe for a whole new host of infections.

The doctor thinks they took enough to give Billy a fighting chance, but that’s about all that they gave him.

It’s a nice thought, but Casey knows that it’s largely wishful thinking. A fighting chance means that the odds are stacked against Billy, and one look at the Scot suggests that he'll have to fight pretty hard to overcome them.

Because Billy is looking substantially worse since they’ve arrived at the hospital. After two surgeries and three days, Billy face is already sunken with strain and exhaustion, the hollows of his cheeks prominent and flushed. His skin is almost translucent now, his long limbs limp. He’s trembling now, no matter how many drugs they pump into his system, and his eyes don’t even twitch under his eyelids.

His fever is climbing, spiking then falling somewhat, a little higher each time. His lungs are badly compromised now and the doctors never took out the intubation tube after surgery, instead letting the ventilator assist Billy’s breathing as he slips further away. The doctors aren’t quite calling it a coma, but Billy is scoring progressively lower on the GCS and brain damage is starting to become a concern.

Or it would be if Billy’s foot wasn’t becoming dangerously infected and his entire body wasn’t threatening to shut down entirely.

In short, it’s bad. Bad enough that the doctor has already scheduled the surgery to take Billy’s foot. They’re giving him two days to turn around but it’s clear they don't expect the turn around to happen.

It’s the last option on the table and Casey knows that it’s not even a guarantee. They’ll take Billy’s foot but there’s still a good chance it won’t save his life -- not with the infection so advanced.

“It’ll end your career,” Casey says aloud, watching as Billy remains impassive, the ventilator breathing for him. “It may not save your life, but it will ensure you never step foot in the field again.” He pauses, considering his words. “No pun intended.”

Billy would normally quip in reply, but there’s only silence.

Casey scowls. He’s learned to handle a lot of responses from the Scotsman over the years but lingering silence has never been one of them.

Unconscious or not, Billy puts Casey on edge and he resolves not to show how unnerved he is.

Shifting slightly, Casey keeps his demeanor unchanged. “For all that you were against hazing Martinez, you’re certainly not making this easy on him,” he continues. He fiddles absently with the bandage on his hand -- a nurse had talked him into letting her see it and dress it properly. “We probably should have worked the kid up into responding to others in crisis with something a little less severe. All this near-death, clinging-to-life crap is more than a rookie should probably be expected to handle. He’s barely keeping it together -- just going through the motions.”

It’s worse than that, even. Rick looks almost as sick as Billy sometimes, pale and hunched over. He gets food but never eats more than a few bites. If Billy doesn’t pull through, Casey is uncertain that Martinez will continue to be a viable asset in the field.

Even that, though, has no effect on Billy. Logically, Casey never expected it to. But he can’t deny that it’s still hard to take.

Pursuing his lips, Casey presses on. “Even Michael is letting this affect him,” he says. “He literally hasn’t stopped since we got you here. If he’s not here, checking your damn machines as if he knows what he’s doing, then he’s on the phone talking to Fay or Higgins. Once I even caught him talking to Blanke. Something about watering a house plant for you. You dying is a variable he can’t control. You saw how he was after Fay left him. I don’t think you want to put him through that again. Or, more importantly, me.”

Michael doesn’t show worry and he doesn’t show grief, but Casey knows him well enough to see it all the same. Michael’s self-flagellation is carefully concealed, but the more details he tries to organize, the more Casey sees the big picture slipping away from him. At this point, Michael would trade his kingdom for a horse if it meant saving Billy.

But there’s no horses here. Just Billy in a hospital bed, slowly dying.

Dying.

It’s such a harsh word, and it makes Casey edgy. He knows what the reality of this situation is, but he doesn’t care. He can’t care. He refuses to accept it. He doesn’t care what Michael tries to plan or what Rick fears. Billy can’t die.

End of story, as far as Casey is concerned. Realism will have to take a back seat, at least for now.

The thought makes Casey smile wryly as he looks at Billy. It’s a funny thing, Casey being an optimist. That’s Billy’s job, and it always has been. Casey’s always grated against it -- he’s mocked and belittled the Scot for it. But sitting there, in Billy’s hospital room, Casey finally understands it. Not just as a personality quirk or even a facade. But as a defense mechanism.

Billy’s optimism isn’t so much about denial as it is desperation. It’s not about avoiding reality; it’s about surviving it. Reality, as Casey knows, is bleak.

Too bleak.

In everything, Casey’s never considered that about Billy. That maybe between getting decommissioned and deported, Billy can’t accept reality at face value and still do his job. Still get up each day and do what he can. Maybe Billy needs his own version of reality just as much as Casey does right now.

On the bed, Billy doesn’t move. His chest rises and falls. The machines hum and beep.

Casey sighs again. “You know, I could go for one of your silly stories right now,” he says. “Something to remind me that things could always be worse.”

But Billy doesn’t reply.

“To think, all the times I hated your eternal sunshine,” Casey says, shaking his head. “And I miss it now.” He pauses, shrugging. “Or I get it, anyway.”

Billy sleeps on, heat rising off his skin, chills racking his body.

“Just this once,” Casey says, leaning forward slightly. “Just this once, I’ll play the part. I’ll believe in the impossible and refuse the obvious. Just this time.”

Billy doesn’t flinch; doesn’t move.

“And just until you wake up again,” Casey amends with a note of warning. “So you better wake up soon, okay?”

Billy’s never denied him before; Casey has to believe he won’t start now.

-o-

It seems like the most important choices in life are ones that Billy’s never had the chance to make. Or at least, the options had never really given him much sway. Join the Secret Service or flunk out of college. Let Olivia Drummond go or watch her be killed. Join the CIA or live in disgrace and poverty elsewhere.

Somehow, this feels like one of those choices. Linger in unending agony with a lost career or just let go altogether.

Because Billy knows those are the choices. He remembers why he’s here; he remembers how this started. More than that, he’s fairly certain he knows how it ends.

Even in the darkness and the pain, he knows his foot is killing him. He knows there’s a good chance he’ll lose the appendage and lose any hope he ever had of continuing on as a spy. He’ll be forced out of the cold, shuffled into a desk job. Probably transferred out of the covert division altogether, forced to be an analyst, shifting through piles of paperwork no one else ever looked at.

It’s not death, but it certainly does seem like it. Billy has nothing left but his job and to lose it -- to be relegated to sitting behind a desk -- it’s losing his liberty all over again.

These are choices that aren’t actually choices and Billy would be a fool not to think about letting go. He’s not sure what comes in the next life but he knows what’s likely left of this one is less than he would want.

Since losing his country and his dignity, he’s made a point to close himself off, to keep himself a singular, wafting entity. If he has no roots, being pulled out doesn’t hurt. If he has no meaningful ties to anything, then being ripped away doesn’t phase him.

Or so the theory goes.

He has nothing of value to his name -- no savings, no home, no amount of meaningful possessions. Anything he does have, he has no qualms in leaving. Not even his reputation, what little of it there is left. A few boxes for Goodwill and a black star on the wall. Just his mates to miss him.

And that’s the thing that gives him pause. As he lets himself drift closer to the edge, they’re the ones still calling him back. He hears them at his bedside, talking of plans and fears and hopes. They want him to stay.

They dragged him this far and they want him to stay.

They didn’t give up on him, and there’s the rub. Billy’s a man without a country; he’s a man without roots and without connections and without family. After this, he could be a man without a job even.

But he’s not a man without friends.

Michael, Casey, Rick. They’re here for him and they’ve always been here. They’re staying until the end.

In everything, in all his facades and his distance, he’s never been able to keep them away. They’ve never given up on him and he’s never given up on them.

And really, now seems like a hell of a time to start.

In the end, this decision is like the others. Ultimately, it’s not a decision at all.

-o-

Michael has never been one to admit defeat. In seventh grade, when he ran for student council, he had never conceded his loss to Jack Muramoto. To this day, he still contends that Jack won by bringing chocolate for the math club on the day of the vote.

And that’s not the only thing. He still has his English paper from senior year when the teacher gave him a C and Michael argued his way to a B because AP style is just as valid as MLA, no matter what the syllabus said. He holds a grudge against Phi Beta Kappa for rejecting his membership in college and a copy of the protest letter he sent declining his application because of misleading credentials listed by the organization’s founders.

He never actually signed his divorce papers. He never completed the report that said Simms died.

So Michael refuses to acknowledge the impending defeat of this mission. It’s true that the intel has been submitted safely back to Langley; it’s also true that several arrests have already been made in the fallout. But the doctors keep talking about taking Billy’s foot, about how the outlook is looking grim, and Michael can’t accept it.

And it’s not just his own failure; it’s Billy.

Sitting by the Scot’s bedside, he shakes his head. “I know you don’t like to think so, but I know you,” he says. “And I know you’re better than this.”

It’s not that he thinks Billy’s being unusually weak -- Michael understands the severity of his wound and just how grave the situation is. But for as long as he’s known Billy -- and they’re pushing nearly a decade now -- he knows that nothing keeps him down. Not deportations or botched missions. Not failed relationships or life threatening injuries.

If Billy is defined by anything, even more than his friendly nature, it’s his resiliency. Michael knows why Billy left his homeland -- knows the defeat and the humiliation and the regret of it all --and he’s seen the man build himself back up. Become more than that, even when most agents Michael knows would have folded it up without trying.

Because Michael doesn’t admit defeat and Billy just doesn’t lose. Of if he does, he finds a way around it. He’s lucky in his misfortunes, and Michael has come to count on that.

Mostly, he’s come to count on Billy.

“And I know you’re not ready to leave this all behind,” he says, and he knows he’s being presumptuous, but he also knows he’s right. Billy doesn’t have the happiest life, despite what he tries to portray. He lives in a shabby motel room and doesn’t sleep around as much as he spends his nights alone with a drink and a book. This is a self-imposed exile, though; Michael’s still working on breaking through the rest.

And he’s not ready to admit defeat in that, either.

“Casey needs you to keep him human,” he says, matter of fact. Because Billy doesn’t take things for himself, but he can’t deny his friends. “The human weapon needs his human half.”

In the bed, Billy sleeps. The doctors are calling it a coma now, because there’s no other way to describe the deepening and pervasive unconsciousness.

“And Rick, well, you’re the only one who knows how to communicate with him at all,” Michael says, shaking his head. “The rest of us are too set in our ways to even remember what it was like being the new guy.”

Billy expression doesn’t flicker, his chest rising and falling slowly. His breathing is getting worse; the strain on his heart is almost too much as the fever climbs to dangerous levels. They’ll be taking his foot tomorrow, and Michael is studiously not thinking about that.

He looks down at his hands and tries to think of something else to say. Something else to bring Billy back. He has all the leverage in the world, but he’s afraid this time it won’t be enough.

He’s afraid.

He looks up again, brow furrowed. “In all these years, I’ve asked you for a lot, and you’ve never failed me,” he says. “I know that should be enough but it’s not.”

He keeps his eyes steady, watches the sweat on Billy’s brow, the trembling of his body.

“I don’t know what I’d do,” Michael admits, and it’s scary but not as scary as losing Billy altogether.

These are the things he doesn’t say. There’s a lot of that in the ODS, and Michael has always assumed that because they all know it, there’s no need to say it. He wonders now if he was wrong about that.

Maybe wrong about more than he thought.

But not wrong about Billy. He wasn’t wrong about giving a Billy a second chance at the CIA, even after his marred record from the UK. He wasn’t wrong about making Billy an integral part of his team, reliable and dependable in all things.

And he’s not wrong about Billy now. He can beat this. He has to.

“And I know you don’t want to find out,” Michael says, looking at Billy intently. Looking at the scruff-covered cheeks, the chapped lips around the ventilator tube, the lanky body shrouded in a hospital gown.

He looks.

“Come back,” he asks, and if he’s begging there’s no one here to see it, no one except Billy. “Please.”

Just that fast, an alarm sounds. Another monitor wails and Michael is still trying to figure out what’s happening when he’s pushed out of the way. There’s one nurse and then two and when the doctor arrives, Michael feels numb.

He watches as they work, their movements fast and voices terse. Michael thinks he should be able to figure out what’s happening but he doesn’t want to.

Because the alarms are still going, the doctor is still working, and Michael never concedes a failure. He never admits defeat. He has to believe Billy will be okay because there is no other option that he can cope with. There’s simply no other option that is acceptable.

But it’s a heavy feeling and the evidence is mounting. Michael’s known this since Billy first cried out in the woods, since he first went down, since Michael got his first look at the metal trap around Billy’s ankle.

He wonders if he has to admit it this time. If failure is inevitable, if this will be the incident he can’t explain away. If this time, he’ll lose more than his perfect record; if this time, he’ll lose a teammate and a friend. If he’ll lose Billy.

This fear is overwhelming and Michael is stiff, almost unseeing when the doctor turns to face him. Maybe that’s why it takes Michael so long to realize that the man is smiling.

“His fever broke,” he says, and he sounds as surprised as he does relieved. “It’s coming down rapidly.”

Michael blinks. “But the monitors--”

The man nods in understanding. “The rapid change had an impact on his vitals,” he explains. “His system crashed just a little while compensating.”

Michael tries to understand. He looks beyond the man to Billy, who is still being tended by the nurses. He’s still breathing and the monitors are silent. He still looks pale but he’s alive.

“We’re already seeing a jump in his vitals and we just started seeing some response to pain stimuli,” the doctor reports, sounding almost proud now. “We’re going to have to watch him closely, but I think he’s turned a corner.”

Michael’s usually pretty good at reading between the lines, but this time, he wants it spelled out. “So he’ll be okay?”

The doctor shrugs, somewhat noncommittal. “His body has still been badly compromised by the infection and we’re going to have to keep him full of antibiotics until we can clear it out,” he says. “But it looks good.”

It looks good. After everything, after how close they’d come, it looks good.

Michael looks back at Billy as the doctor claps him on the shoulder before he leaves. Michael is still laughing, eyes wet as Billy’s heart beats, as he keeps breathing. And Michael can’t deny it: it really does look good.

-o-

Once, in Russia, Casey had lectured Rick about the importance of doing the job you’re assigned, even when it seems insignificant. Sometimes, in retrospect, that lesson is obscured since Rick’s cover had almost been entirely compromised and he’d been afraid of being eaten by the proverbial wolves as a result.

Still, he’s reminded of that lesson now.

Because he feels useless. More than that, he feels like he hasn’t done anything of note in days. He’s taken time to eat and sleep properly; his cell phone minutes are also in danger of going into overage charges because he’s been on the phone with Adele so much. He’s done a lot of sitting and a bit of pacing and beyond that -- there hasn’t been much else.

He’s just waiting for Billy.

This isn’t actually so uncommon. The Scot has a creative sense of time, often showing up at odd hours to missions. The only reason he manages to show up to work at a reasonable hour is because he carpools with Michael.

Those situations can be aggravating to say the least, but Rick has to admit, he’d take something like that over this any day.

Because now he’s waiting for Billy to wake up.

This seems like a feeble effort on Rick’s part; he’s essentially doing nothing with good intentions, but Casey was right back in Russia. Sometimes the insignificant jobs are the most important of all. Because Billy will wake up -- that much is certain now -- and they’re not going to let Billy be alone when that happens.

So the endless hours of waiting, the pacing and the worrying and the talking to the walls -- it’s worth it.

Rick sighs, looking at Billy and reminds himself again that it’s worth it.

It still feels like it’s taking forever. They say a watched pot never boils and Rick’s starting to believe it. Because on his shifts, he’s watched every breath, flinched at every twitch, and jumped at every small moan. These things are happening more frequently now; after Billy’s fever had broken, things had started to improve. The infection started to give and Billy’s internal functions started to return to normal. His kidneys started producing urine again; his lungs were getting clearer. In fact, Billy had even been extubated, given a nasal canula instead.

Yet, Billy still hasn’t woken up. His color seems to be improved slightly, from the colorless hue of death to a sickly tint, exacerbated by the loss of fever in his cheeks. Billy simply looks exhausted now, his stubble almost a beard after all these days and his spiky hair even more unkempt than normal.

It’s strange to see, and even harder to remember that this is an improvement. Rick knows these things intellectually but he’s having a hard time convincing himself on an emotional level. Because for all that Billy’s improved, he doesn’t look better yet. He’s still far too still and far too haggard to be the vibrant man Rick’s started to know so well.

Sighing again, Rick adjusts in his seat. “You know,” he says, looking at Billy pointedly. “If this is another lesson, then I’m still objecting to these methods. At this rate, all I’m learning is that hospital chairs are horrible for your back.”

He grunts, grimacing for good measure to prove his point. He half imagines a creative retort from Billy, but his mind is sluggish with the time in the hospital and it doesn’t make him feel better anyway.

“And really,” Rick continues, garnering animation for his voice. He’s not generally one to ramble, but this ordeal has worn down his normal inhibitions and restraints. “After this, I think I’ve earned a reprieve. In fact, maybe it’s time I started teaching you some lessons. About how to recover quickly from an injury in the field. You’re going to be sidelined for months; I was back in the game within six weeks.”

This is true, though he realizes the situations aren’t comparable. Especially since it’s not clear how Billy’s foot will heal and if he’ll lose any feeling in the aftermath.

He’s about to continue, to say something about how Billy could learn from his stellar organization prowess, when Billy twitches.

For a second, Rick thinks he’s imagined it. But, as his attention narrows in, Billy twitches again, this time the movement more pronounced as Billy’s face twists into a grimace.

Rick freezes, afraid that if he moves, he might stop it.

Billy seems to grunt, his body shifting as his eyelids flicker. Rick is still staring blankly when they open.

Rick waits, sees if they’ll close. Billy’s opened his eyes before; he’s even mumbled some nonsense a few times, but it’s never lasted.

This time, it does.

Billy’s been staring at the ceiling for a good ten seconds before Rick remembers to move.

“Billy,” he says, scrambling out of the chair and nearly tripping to Billy’s bedside.

Billy blinks, turning his bleary eyes toward Rick and trying to focus. It seems to take a lot of effort and Billy’s brow creases as his breath catches in his throat and the silent question is plain in his eyes. What happened?

It could be the relief or it could just be the exhaustion of waiting, but Rick laughs.

This loosens the pressure in Rick’s chest, but it seems to only confuse Billy more. His eyes widen slightly and look uncharacteristically wet as his mouth opens in an uncertainty he’s not quite able to voice yet.

Rick’s mood shifts and he puts his hand on Billy’s arm, looking steadily into the Scot’s blue eyes. “It’s okay,” he says. “You’re in a hospital, but you’re going to be okay now.”

He says it with certainty and there’s only a small moment of hesitation before Billy seems to believe him. The tension drains from his face and he nods his head, drawing his mouth together with a semblance of weak but steady resolve.

This time, Rick lets himself smile again. “We’re going to be okay,” he repeats because it’s true and because Billy needs to hear it. After everything, they all do.

Sometimes waiting paid off. Sometimes even the insignificant and painstaking and uncomfortable tasks paid off.

And that was one lesson Rick was happy to learn.

Part Five

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: December 21st, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
Delightfully exhausted

I'm so delightfully exhausted and that's a testament to the emotions as well as actions you put in. Both take the breath away and you're just left trembling from the effort of keeping in control or waiting for the next setback or recovery or emotional revelation!

This moment is both poignant and HILARIOUS because of the way you paint Casey:

“I think it was too much for him,” he says. “Seeing Billy like that.”

Seeing blood and trauma is rarely easy for a novice. Seeing it with someone you know, possibly care about, is even harder.

“Should we go after him?” Casey asks.

At this, Michael smiles ruefully. “I had to make sure you were okay first,” he says. “Rick’s not going to kill anyone. You, I can never be so sure.”

Casey can’t deny it.

“Besides,” Michael says, “Rick will be back.”


And this is complete Casey:

Sighing, Casey musters up what he imagines must be compassion. “You don’t get extra points for standing while you wait,” he says. “Besides, I think Billy would want us to be comfortable while he tortures us with this.”

OH SOB!!:

“But you always do what needs to be done,” Michael continues, more seriously now. “Especially when the situation is desperate.”

And the situation is desperate now. Michael doesn’t say that; he’s afraid to. He thinks Billy probably knows.

“And I need you to wake up,” he says, his voice wavering just slightly. “It’s hard to do this job without someone to waste time so effectively. I mean, can you imagine the office on a slow day? Or a long transatlantic flight?”

The questions go unanswered, but Michael’s pretty sure he already knows.

His exhaustion is getting the best of him. He collects a ragged breath and lets it out. “Mostly, you just need to beat this,” he says, and he doesn’t try to hide the worry or the fear. “I mean, I don’t really have a plan B here. You just have to get better.”


SInce Sophie is my hubby's endearment for me, I LOVED this and fangirlie me just loves the idea of being anywhere near Billy. HAHAHA!:

Rick vaguely recognizes the nurse -- Sophie, if he remembers correctly from her introduction at shift change. She moves to Billy easily but engages Rick, too. “Time to check the bandage, I’m afraid,” she says.

Great Casey moment:

Pursuing his lips, Casey presses on. “Even Michael is letting this affect him,” he says. “He literally hasn’t stopped since we got you here. If he’s not here, checking your damn machines as if he knows what he’s doing, then he’s on the phone talking to Fay or Higgins. Once I even caught him talking to Blanke. Something about watering a house plant for you. You dying is a variable he can’t control. You saw how he was after Fay left him. I don’t think you want to put him through that again. Or, more importantly, me.”




OY, MY FAVORITE line in this chapter and I love that it happens right after Casey's moment with him:

“Casey needs you to keep him human,” he says, matter of fact. Because Billy doesn’t take things for himself, but he can’t deny his friends. “The human weapon needs his human half.”

This was just plain HILARIOUS as an inside mention/joke:

Michael has never been one to admit defeat. In seventh grade, when he ran for student council, he had never conceded his loss to Jack Muramoto. To this day, he still contends that Jack won by bringing chocolate for the math club on the day of the vote.




Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 22nd, 2011 01:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Delightfully exhausted
billy likes

Casey is a really fun character to write; in particular, he makes a great contrast to Billy. It's especially fun to get under his shell and show his vulnerabilities, especially when he's angsting over Billy!

And I'm glad you appreciated the inside joke :)

Your reviews are always completely made of win!

Posted by: altpointofview (altpointofview)
Posted at: January 22nd, 2012 07:48 am (UTC)

So I'm writing this comment from my iPhone & for some crazy reason the thing won't let me copy from your text which is unbelievably cruel because I so wanted to comment & *squee* about some specific moments in this chapter & not being able to copy & paste makes that just about impossible.
DUDE THIS CHAPTER KICKED SOME SERIOUS HARD CORE H/C BUTT!!!!
I think this mag have been the best bedside hospital vigil you have ever written & in your case that is saying a lot!!!!
I'm reading this while I give telemetry a break & than I have to go back out on the floor & check my patients so I'm afraid the last chapter will have to wait till tomorrow but believe me I am loving this fic.
I particularly adored Casey trying to snap Billy out of things with his description of not hazing the new guy & how bad Rick was handling the situation & I nearly hit the floor when Casey got Billy's optimism - WOW!!!!! - talk about your character insights - YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!
Absolutely amazing stuff you have here - LOVE IT!!!!!!!
More feedback to come when I'm done reading I'm sure. :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2012 02:18 pm (UTC)
chaos rick

LOL, I love that this vigil stands out since I have written way more than anyone should. I know they probably get redundant but my muse keeps demanding them and I have no ability to fight my muse at this point in my life.

Really, I love your reviews :) And I miss you! Thanks!

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