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Chaos fic: Sometimes Goodbye is a Second Chance 1/1

February 9th, 2012 (07:34 am)
complacent
Tags: ,

feeling: complacent

Title: Sometimes Goodbye is a Second Chance

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: This fic is based on a line from my fic If the Fates Allow . blackdog_lz wanted to know what the SNAFU in Madagascar was all about. So this is the answer :) Much thanks to sophie_deangirl for beta services. Remaining mistakes are because I still fail at typing. Title borrowed from the song by Shinedown.

Spoilers: Some for “Proof of Life” if only for the existence of Carson Simms. This is set preseries by about two years.

Summary: Sometimes you can’t outrun the past. Sometimes you have to face it. For the better, maybe. More likely, for the worse.



-o-

Billy runs.

Running’s never been his sport of choice. If he had his druthers, he’d take a game of football any day of the week and twice on Sundays. It’s not so much a question of physical endurance as it is mental focus, and Billy’s never preferred that much of a solitary activity for such an extended period of time if he can help it.

When he can’t help it, however, he can run quite well.

He has to, in order to survive.

He has to.

Billy doubles down, pulling from his reserve and fueling himself with adrenaline. He has to run or he’ll be caught and killed or worse. He just has to run if he’s going to salvage anything from this mission, anything at all.

His feet fly over the forest floor, and he wishes for a moment that they were someplace less remote, someplace less wet and rainy. The rainforest is very scenic and all that, but it’s hard enough to keep his feet under him when he’s running at such a clip, and the extra hassle of branches and plants is practically asking for disaster.

Rather, more disaster.

It doesn’t bloody matter. What matters is that Billy has to run faster.

He hears them, still too close. Four voices, calling to each other. Errant gunshots pierce the air and Billy doesn’t waste time flinching. If the shots are close enough to matter, ducking won’t do him much good.

Running, though.

His heart is pounding in his chest. His side is aching. His hands are covered in blood and his head is throbbing. It’s hard to make out much – the greens and browns all look the same – and he veers sharply to his left before cutting back and moving right again to throw them off his trail.

There’s no way of knowing if it works, so he keeps running.

He jumps a fallen tree and almost stumbles. His knees protest and pain flares in his side. Things dim but he doesn’t stop.

Skirting left again, he finds a stream. For a while, he runs parallel before waiting for it to shallow up, and he splashes in abruptly.

The water goes up to his ankles and the rocky bed is slick, but he hardly slows. His splashing is noisy, but the stream is also the perfect cover he needs. There will be no trail in the water – finding where he exits will be doable, but will take his pursuers time. Time Billy needs to keep running.

Satisfied, he exits, picking up his pace as he runs straight ahead into the trees. It’s all about distance now; his best hope of survival.

His heart is still pounding, faster now. His chest is so tight he can hardly breathe. His pulse throbs in his head as his muscles start to feel fatigued, but he can’t stop, he can’t –

He’s moving so quickly that he doesn’t realize he’s cresting a hill until the ground slopes sharply away from him. He struggles to stop himself and find his footing but it’s too late.

With his balance off, he has no time to brace himself. The ground comes rushing up to meet him and everything goes black.

-o-

Billy comes to with a gasp.

His heart skips a beat, echoing loudly in his ringing ears. Then, his adrenaline spikes, catching his breath in his throat, even if he’s not sure why. He just knows that something’s wrong, that he can’t be here, that he needs to move –

Movement, however, proves less than ideal.

His body tenses as he tries to rise and pain assaults him. At first, it’s too strong to distinguish, but after a few hissing breaths, he starts to make out the sources.

The pull in his chest – bruised, possibly broken ribs.

Throbbing headache and double vision – likely concussion.

Tender arm – probable sprained wrist.

Twinge in the leg – undoubtedly, a sprained knee to match the wrist.

Breath-stealing ache in his side – a bloody gunshot wound.

Billy cringes, picking at his shirt to get a better look at it. It had happened a while ago, back when his cover had been blown. He’d been too busy running to pay it much heed, but given how much it hurts and the amount of blood he seems to be losing, it seems like now might be the time to finally tend to it properly.

Billy looks up at the forest around him, face contorted grimly.

As if there is a proper way to handle a gunshot wound while on the run in a rain forest.

He remembers, now. The memories are a mite fuzzy all things considered, but it’s hard to find such things entirely vague. After all, his cover had been blown during an illicit arms deal in a remote area of Madagascar. After being very nearly beaten to death, he had been shot while running for his life.

In short, the mission is blown, his backup is over thirty miles away, and he’s bleeding all over the place. He has no phone, no gun, nothing.

Except…

Billy pats himself down, a little frantic. They’d taken his weapons the minute the deal went south, taken anything possibly incriminating before their planned execution. But he had to hope they’d left…

Billy’s fingers fold around something hard and he pulls it out of his pocket. A lighter. Innocuous enough, unless you know how to use it.

And Billy’s made a mess of just about everything else, but he can get this much right.

Flipping it open, he presses the small button. A light comes on and Billy grins in relief.

It’s an emergency beacon.

Billy hadn’t wanted it, had called it superfluous, but Michael had insisted.

Billy’s glad for it now; it means there’s hope.

Yet, it’s still no guarantee. The men will still be after him; Billy’s a loose end they can’t afford, so sitting idly by is a luxury Billy can’t afford.

Still, getting to his feet is something of a struggle. His knee threatens to give out, and the sudden height almost triggers a bout of vertigo. His stomach lurches but he swallows painfully to rein it in.

The pain in his side nearly eclipses his consciousness, but he staves it off doggedly.

The first step is painful; the second is still limping. By the third, he’s gathering some speed, and with a breath, he takes the fourth and starts running again.

-o-

It’s not his fastest run, but it’s steady. He moves with one hand pressed to his side, vainly trying to stem the flow of blood. But it’s eyes forward and feet moving, and if he keeps heading due north toward civilization, he might just survive this after all.

Still, Michael will have his ass for this. It’s been a struggle to get the older man to trust him, to treat him as an equal. He always seems to be watching and disapproving, even after all these years.

Four years, Billy reminds himself. Four years. He’s been away from home longer than that, but it’s been four years since Michael gave him a second chance. Billy’s grateful for it – he really is – but he still feels like he hasn’t earned it yet, and this mission certainly won’t be proving the point.

That sense of failure keeps him moving, even as he has to grit his teeth together to just keep from passing out.

Casey will rightfully lecture him about endurance, about proper training and physical maintenance. Casey always tells him he doesn’t train enough. Lurching through the forest, Billy can’t help but think he’s right. This less than fortunate incident is certainly not going to bring him up to even footing, though he’s not sure Casey will ever grant him that.

That’s the way it’s always been with the ODS. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and Billy knows that. He has no grounds for protest. The ODS is a chance to do what he’s always done best – to be a spy. Being kicked out of his homeland had left him bereft, but Michael had given him a chance when no one else would, and Billy can’t ever repay that, no matter what he does. He can only hope to be worthy of it, to add value to his team.

He likes to think he’s doing that, but he’s not so sure. It’s something of a cruel irony that Billy’s greatest asset is his ability to read people, but the only two that leave him at a loss are the two who matter most. And with all the people he’s charmed over the years, he still can’t win over his teammates.

With Carson, it was easier. There was someone to give him feedback, to help discern what Michael was really thinking, to reassure him when his self-doubt got the better of him.

When Carson was there, Billy understood his place.

But Carson’s not here anymore. Just Billy and the other two. And sometimes, Billy thinks they probably wished it had been Billy who had died, not Carson.

At any rate, that’s what Billy wishes. He misses Carson: misses his jokes and his stories and his friendly ear. He misses feeling like he belongs, like he was wanted. Billy’s known for his flawless covers in the field, but few realize that his work persona is just another cover he’s working. He’s got most of them fooled back at Langley, angry criminals in Madagascar aside.

That doesn’t matter now, though. What matters is surviving. What matters is getting out alive. What matters is gleaning the last vestiges of his intel so this isn’t a complete disaster.

Billy grimaces, almost tripping over a plant.

Pity that disasters seem to be the only thing Billy’s truly any good at.

-o-

With the blood loss and the sore knee, Billy’s not moving as fast as he was. He doesn’t know how long he was unconscious after taking the stumble down the incline, but he knows his lead has been badly compromised.

He doesn’t realize just how bad until he hears the sound of voices in the distance and the retort of a gunshot.

Suppressing a curse, Billy picks up his pace, resuming a more evasive path. He’s been moving straight at his destination in hopes of meeting his teammates sooner rather than later, but he’s still too far out. He’ll be overtaken if he doesn’t do something.

There’s not much to do, though. He veers and weaves, darting through the trees at an irregular path, backtracking at uneven intervals in an attempt to throw his pursuers off his path.

He still hears them, though. Closer and closer.

That’s how it is. That’s how it always is. Billy’s past is behind him but never far enough. It’s nipping at his heels. He always feels it breathing hot and heavy down his neck.

His policy has always been to run and run and then just run faster, and it’s worked so far.

But it’s not working now.

Sometimes you can’t outrun the past.

Sometimes you have to face it.

For the better, maybe. More likely, for the worse.

-o-

Billy’s always been good at thinking on the go – his improvisational skills are pretty damn good, if he’s being honest. But he’s not exactly functioning at peak capacity, what with the exhaustion from running and the pounding of his concussion and the pain from his side and all that blood loss.

Still, he’s formulating the plan, and even if it’s not his best, he’s too tired to second-guess himself.

Moreover, if he fails, he probably won’t be alive long enough to worry about it.

So that’s that.

It’s time to act, his one last chance to prove himself. Time to come face to face with his mistakes and see if he survives.

When he comes to a stop, he makes it obvious. All signs need to lead his pursuers here – right here, if he wants this to work. Any deviation and his advantage will be mostly squandered and, given his current state, he can’t afford that in the slightest.

He picks his spot with as much care as he can – choosing it mostly for the narrowing of the path between the trees. It acts as the perfect funnel, directing his pursuers to a single point, wherein he can maximize his assault mostly by minimizing their access.

At least, in theory. Assuming he can get them to follow him directly through that point, which is a big if and Billy’s not entirely certain that luck is breaking in his favor today.

Still. He can’t afford to mince details. He can’t afford not to as well, but that’s really neither here nor there.

He has to focus. Wiping sweat from his eyes, his vision blurs a little and he takes a few pained breaths to try to bring himself back under control. It only works somewhat; his heartbeat is still racing and his nerves are overloaded from the sheer amount of adrenaline that’s keeping him upright.

Swallowing, he feels shaky but wills it away. Wills himself to keep it together. Michael believed in him enough to take him on-board, even when he was a liability no one else wanted. Casey believed in him enough to invest time into training and coaching him, even though Casey trusts no one. Carson believed in him enough to stand by him, to be there for him, to die for him—

Billy shudders and tries not to remember. Tries not to remember the he’d been the last one to see Simms alive, that he’d kept on running and not turned back. He hadn’t known, of course – he’d had no reason to think – but he still left him behind.

And now here Billy is, back at the proverbial square one, trying to prove himself all over again. At this point, it’s not about survival – not really. Billy doesn’t have a death wish, but he knows his own life has little value. This is about the mission. About being someone that his teammates can count on, no matter what.

No matter what.

Gritting his teeth, Billy looks for what he needs. The idea is loose in his head, scattered by the adrenaline and pain, but he still knows what it is he needs to do. Bring his assailants through the choke point and ambush them. If Casey were here, simple hand to hand would be sufficient. But Casey’s not here and Billy’s good but not that good – more than that, he’s listing badly just standing there, so he’s not entirely sure that taking on four heavily armed and very angry men is his best bet right now.

No, he has to even the odds, at least a wee bit. He needs something, anything. Then he sees the tree branch.

There are a lot of tree branches, of course, but this one is particularly well placed. In truth, it’s a stroke of luck – really, the only he’s had so far – and he doesn’t question it. Fate owes him nothing, but Billy’s not above taking a little divine assistance should it present itself. And that tree is nothing short of a gift from God as far as Billy’s concerned.

It’s long and has some weight but it’s still not entirely immobile. It bends in his grip, making it just pliant enough to serve his purposes.

With effort, he pulls it back. It moves stiffly, the tree creaking somewhat as Billy summons his strength to do the deed. He almost slips but keeps his footing, but by the time he’s pulled the branch far enough back to hide himself, he’s sweating through his shirt and things are hazy around the edges of his vision.

He settles into a near squat; it’s to keep him hidden as much as it is because his legs feel like jelly and threaten to give out. Hunched low, his body is still trembling, and he can feel hot blood starting to run down his leg, soaking his sock.

His arms tremble with their burden but he can’t give in. He doesn’t dare flinch or even move because he might let go. And if he lets go, he’ll never get it back. He’s letting everything he has left ride on this one last chance. It’s make-it or break it and at this point, Billy doesn’t care which way it goes. He just wants it to be over.

Teeth gritted, body half numb, he needs it to be over.

-o-

Billy’s not sure how much time passes. Time is measured in the uneven thumping of his heart, speeding up and slowing down in random intervals. The pain crescendos every now and then, bringing his awareness to a pinpoint before ebbing unspectacularly until his consciousness nearly dissipates bit by bit into nothingness.

He half thinks that he’s awake for no other reason than he’s too tired to close his eyelids.

Then, a sudden movement in the forest brings him back into himself.

It’s closer – closer than it should be – and Billy curses himself for almost missing it. They’re practically on top of him and his grip almost gives too early as they come thundering through the chokepoint.

Billy blinks, startling. He lets go.

The branch swings back with force, the backlash sending Billy hard onto his backside. His vision dims, new pain igniting in his side, but he still hears the meaty thunk.

The voices are yelling now and someone fires a gun. Billy rouses from his stupor and sees two men unmoving on the ground, another scrambling amid the plants and leaves, a hand to his head, mopping up blood ineffectually.

The fourth, though, is standing. He’s too distracted by his teammates to see Billy right away, but he’s still firing in Billy’s general direction out of sheer spite alone.

These are the odds Billy was counting on. It’s still probably a lost cause – Billy’s probably always been a lost cause – but he owes it to his team to do his very best until the very end.

The very, very end. Bitter or painful or final as it may be.

Therefore, Billy doesn’t hesitate. His body protests, but he ignores it as he springs to his feet, flying through the air in a haphazard charge. It’s such a blind tactic that the other man is taken off guard, no time to lift his gun as Billy crashes into him, sending them both into the forest floor.

Billy’s vision blinks out as they tumble. Still, he remembers his training and makes sure they keep moving until he’s on top.

It’s a tenuous position – he’s barely upright – but he’s still got the advantage and he’s going to use it for all it’s worth.

The man below him is hard to focus on – dark skin and facial hair – but it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters as Billy curls his hand into a fist and swings with all the force he has left.

It’s a direct hit and Billy doesn’t wait to follow up. He punches again, knowing his life depends on this. The mission depends on this.

He punches and punches until the man stops moving and Billy sees red smeared on his face as his own energy abates just as fast.

Slumping a little, he reminds himself that it’s not over. He stumbles as he tries to get off the man, and he’s trying to find his footing when he sees the other man moving. Billy thinks he needs to move, needs to get out of the way. He needs to attack, to subdue, to something.

He can’t, though. He can’t do anything as he hears the shot, feels it rip into his body.

Hitting the ground, everything is white as he strains for air.

Now it’s over, he thinks, feeling the blood spilling out of him. Now it really may be over.

-o-

This time, it actually seems cruel that he doesn’t pass out. Instead, his body stays awake. He’s reached his pain threshold, and now the agony is constant, coursing through him with an intensity that he can’t control any longer. He’s crying, tears streaking down his fast as he squirms helplessly, trying to find some way to get away from it, some way to just breathe.

It’s useless, though. The second shot hit him in the chest and he can hear the blood gurgling in his lungs. It’ll be a fatal hit, he knows, without prompt medical attention.

And since he’s still lost in the rain forest in Madagascar, that doesn’t seem likely.

He convulses, coughing as blood wells in his throat. He chokes and flails, counting this as a harbinger of the end. Maybe it’s karma that he has to be awake to see it coming. Awake to see his impending failure, his ultimate let down to every last person who ever invested anything in him.

Someone stands above him. It’s one of the men, the one bleeding from the head. His face is bloody and when he smiles, it’s vindictive and angry. “I will kill you here,” he says. “Cut you up and leave only your head for your friends to find.”

Billy labors in vain, trying to breathe. He can’t even speak now and his lungs whistle uselessly.

“They will know your failure,” he says. “Pathetic scum.”

It’s insult to injury, and it shouldn’t matter. Billy’s been called worse, but it’s hard to hear because it’s true. God have pity on him, it’s true.

It’s not about how he dies or what happens to his body. It’s about Michael and Casey believing he can do this. It’s about Simms never doubting him. It’s about everyone back home who still think of him as a screw up.

It’s not about this man necessarily, but he represents the failures. He represents the past. And Billy can’t handle that. He may die here, but he won’t die on these terms.

The man holds the gun, leveling it at Billy’s head.

And Billy snaps.

He’s not sure where he finds the strength. It doesn’t matter. He’s barely aware of his own body as he moves, lifting up his leg and slamming it hard between the other man’s legs. It’s literally below the belt, but Billy’s not going to play fair. He can’t afford to play fair.

The man startles in surprise, bending over in pain and Billy gets to his feet, lurching. The man still has his gun, so Billy does the only thing he can and charges headlong, tackling him to the ground.

They both hit hard and Billy doesn’t even let himself feel the pain. Instead, he reaches for the gun, wresting it as hard as he can.

The other man is still stunned, but as he feels Billy take the gun, he springs back to life, fighting hard with everything he has. The back and forth is frantic, the gun locked between them, wavering uncontrollably. Billy feels his fingers slipping, his strength waning.

For a second – just for one fleeting second – his fingers wrap around the trigger. He has no way of knowing if the safety’s off. He has no way of knowing for sure which way the gun is pointing. This will save him or kill him.

It’s a risk, but at this point, it’s a risk Billy’s willing to take.

It’s really the only option.

And Billy pulls the trigger.

-o-

It’s a suspended moment. The gunshot seems to cut through the fabric of time and space and leaves Billy hanging uncertainly for what comes. For a moment, he’s back with Michael and Casey, talking about the mission. Then he’s back with Carson in North Africa, the moment before the warehouse goes up in flames. Then he’s back in the UK, getting his walking papers and leaving MI6 forever.

He’s everywhere and nowhere and he’s living and he’s dying and Billy doesn’t know what comes next.

He doesn’t know if there’s anything left to come. If this is all he is. A series of failures, each more stupid than the last. He could die here.

He could already be dead.

Above him, the man’s dark eyes meet Billy’s. They lock, staring hard. Billy wonders what his failures are, if he has his own reasons for being here, if he can see Billy as plainly as Billy can see him.

Then, the moment ends.

The forest is quiet, the echo of the gunshot still reverberating inside of Billy. He’s not sure if he’s breathing, if his heart is beating.

Billy waits for it, waits for the pain, for the bright light – for something.

His heart lurches; he sucks in a ragged breath.

Then, the man above him blinks. His body goes limp and he falls away, a patch of bright blood on his fatigues.

He did it.

Billy did it.

The victory is numbing, devoid of joy. He’s won, but it doesn’t mean what he thought it would. It doesn’t mean anything at all.

He’s still the same man; still the same failure. He’s still a traitor to his country and he still lets his team down.

And he’s still dying.

With that realization, pain lances through his body, making his muscles go taut a second before his awareness leaves him for what feels like the very last time.

-o-

Billy floats.

Between life and death, between success and failure. There’s something raw and honest in him, the hope to belong clouded amongst his guise of cheerful indifference. The more he hides from others, the more he hides from himself, and he’s at the point where he’s not entirely certain who he is anymore.

He’s a member of the ODS, an employee of the CIA. He’s not a bad teammate, he supposes, but he’s prone to reckless behavior. Sometimes he’s right; sometimes he’s wrong.

This is true for most people, but Billy’s in a line of work that plays with people’s lives. He used to think that the big picture made everything worth it.

He’d been wrong.

And it’s still a bloody mess. They could kick him out of the country, the CIA could give him a second chance, but it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change Billy’s successes or failures. It doesn’t change Billy. He’s had everything and lost everything and now he’s so afraid of losing that he doesn’t dare hold anything.

And it’s a lonely life. It’s lonely and it’s hard and it’s everything Billy wants but nothing that he wants and he doesn’t know how to make anything parse.

He’s not sure why he bothers; why anyone bothers with him.

He’s not worth it.

He’s not.

But Michael is. Michael and Casey and Carson. All the people back home, his friends and his family and everyone.

Michael offers him a second chance but hardly a second look. There’s reliance and there’s trust and Billy has the first but not the second. Michael sees him and sighs because maybe he saw this coming.

Casey shakes his head. He teaches and Billy listens but never learns. Casey doesn’t wait. Not for people who don’t earn it. He doesn’t wait for Billy.

Carson stays longer than the rest and he looks sad as he disappears; disappointed, like he wants to stay but can’t.

And Billy knows why. Because his best isn’t good enough, when this is over, he won’t be missed.

They won’t even think of him.

There’s no need.

Because Billy sees himself, better than they do. He’s broken and bleeding on the ground. Michael will come for him, Casey will fight for him, Carson will die for him, but none of them know him. If they did, they’d be gone already.

He sees himself – sees everything – and he barely knows who he’s looking at.

Sees himself and just floats on.

-o-

Then, he’s back on the ground. His eyes are open.

Michael is there; his face is pinched, hands stained red while he presses a phone to his ear. “I don’t care about the protocol, get us a damn transport. Now.”

Michael doesn’t threaten idly, nor does he usually do so with such vigor. Not unless something’s wrong.

Then Casey bobs into view. There’s blood all down the front of him, but he doesn’t seem to notice. “Ambulance is preferable,” he says. “He’s breathing through blood here and won’t be able to keep it up much longer.”

They’re talking about him, Billy realizes. His heart stutters and he tries to breathe instinctively, his body seizing up in pain and desperation when he fails.

Michael looks angrier than Billy’s ever seen him, his eyes burning with deadly intensity. “No, I don’t know about the status of the mission and frankly, it doesn’t matter,” he says.

Billy tries to breathe again and coughs instead, convulsing with the effort.

Casey swears, low and uncharacteristically uncertain. “We’re losing him,” he says.

Michael looks to Casey. “Can you--?”

“You really want me to do a chest tube in the field without proper equipment and no painkillers?” Casey asks, eyebrows raised.

“Do we have another choice?”

Casey actually hesitates. “I just…I don’t know if it’ll work,” he admits.

Michael nods at the older man. “It’s the only chance he has,” he says. Then his eyes turn to Billy. “So hold on. We’re fighting for you, so don’t you stop fighting for us. Just a little longer.”

He moves away, talking back into his phone again.

Billy’s gaping now, feeling himself slip. Casey comes back into view, looking directly at Billy. “I apologize in advance,” he says. “I wouldn’t do it if I had another choice.”

Billy is confused by that, not sure what he means but then something sharp pierces his side and everything goes red then white then dark.

-o-

He fumbles with the pain. It’s different now, thick and gauzy, still there, but muted.

And it’s brighter, too. Lights blind him and voices surround him. But it’s cold now. Sterile somehow and he lays on something hard and flat.

Something is beeping; something whooshes. He’s breathing but he’s not and he’s cold and hot, all at once.

He doesn’t understand and he doesn’t know what’s happening. It’s all out of control – all of it. He’s getting kicked out of the UK and he’s leaving Carson behind and he’s bleeding out in the rain forest and he doesn’t know what to do.

Doesn’t know who to be. Doesn’t know how to be. Where he belongs.

Nowhere. He’s surrounded by people and he’s alone.

But then Michael’s there; and Casey. Michael puts a hand on his shoulder and Casey almost smiles. “You’re going to be okay, Collins,” Michael says.

It’s hard to believe, but Billy wants this. He wants it. So he feels Michael’s touch, sees Casey’s smile, hears the words and lets himself believe.

-o-

When he opens his eyes again, it feels like only seconds have passed. But he’s woken up in enough hospital beds to know better.

He is, after all, far too lucid. He’s been shot twice and likely undergone surgery. If he’s actually coherent, then he’s been out of it for a while.

Blinking, he’s cautious. The fog of painkillers is evident, but he can still feel the ache in his side and chest. His throat is raw and his head throbs dully.

Tentatively, he wets his lips and tries to swallow.

“It’s going to feel pretty bad for a while,” Michael voice comes.

Carefully, Billy diverts his gaze. Michael is slouched in the chair by his bed. Casey’s behind him, leaning against the wall near the window.

“Ventilators can save your life but they’re hell on the voice box,” Casey adds. “In your case, maybe not such a bad thing.”

The barb is light and familiar; Billy can’t help but chuckle breathlessly. The small act is almost too much and he fights back the urge to cough.

In reply, Michael lifts a glass and holds a spoon, offering ice chips.

It feels pathetic to be fed like a child, but Billy lacks the energy to do it himself and the thought of something cold in his throat is too tempting to pass up.

If Michael finds such a thing strange, he doesn’t let it show. Instead, he sits, watching Billy carefully.

Shifting awkwardly, Billy tries to rally his strength. The ice has helped numb his throat, and he decides speaking is worth the effort. “How did you find me?”

Michael shrugs. “Easy.”

“Just followed you, like some kind of insufferable ray of light,” Casey adds.

Billy frowns.

Michael rolls his eyes. “The emergency beacon,” he says.

And Billy remembers, remembers tucking it in his jeans and hoping for the best. “Ah,” he says. “I owe the tech team quite a debt of gratitude then for saving my life.”

Casey scoffs.

Michael shakes his head. “The beacon was a good idea,” he says. “But you saved your own life.”

The praise makes Billy squirm because he knows better. “But I blew the mission,” he says. “My cover was completely compromised. I’m still not sure how but they were onto me from the minute we got out there.”

It’s a lot of words, and he feels spent after them. He lets himself deflate on the bed, looking away, almost ashamed to meet their gazes.

There’s a long pause; Billy fears the worse.

“It’s our fault,” Michael says finally.

Billy looks up, surprised.

Michael sighs, collects his breath. “We got tagged running surveillance,” he says. “We managed to get the hell out before it got hot but once they knew they were being watched, it was only a matter of time before they realized your cover was a fake.”

“We tried to get to you before you left on the run, but it was too late,” Casey adds.

“When you went off grid, I was sure we’d lost you,” Michael says.

“And then you turned on your beacon,” Casey says, his expression wry. “Like I said, an insufferable ray of light, blinking on our GPS.”

“It was pretty impressive,” Michael says. “Surviving your own murder.”

“And you took down four heavily armed men,” Casey says, clearly impressed. “Without a weapon.”

Billy blinks, trying to get his head around it all. It’s something to know it wasn’t his fault, to know that he didn’t compromise himself. But still. He shakes his head. “I still blew the mission,” he says. “I never did get to see the buyer.”

“No,” Michael agrees. “But you got us something better.”

Billy inclines his head.

“Apparently your friendly execution squad liked to keep its paperwork close to the vest,” Casey says.

“As in, on them at all times,” Michael says. “We got scores of new intel off them.”

“A little bloody, though,” Casey amends.

Michael smirks. “But forgivable,” he says. “Under the circumstances.”

Billy stares. He doesn’t know what else to do. After everything, it’s almost too much.

Michael seems to understand and he leans forward, putting his hand on Billy’s arm. “You did good,” he says, looking Billy in the eyes as if to convince Billy to believe it.

Billy wants to but he’s not sure how. He’s been harboring his doubts for so long that it’s overwhelming to think about giving them up.

“You did very good,” Casey says, and Billy’s eyes flicker to the other man. He’s not one to offer praise, but there is no hesitation in his face, no reluctance in his words.

They mean it. Billy’s not sure how but he can’t deny the evidence that they do.

“We know it hasn’t been easy,” Michael says before Billy comes up with any kind of response.

“And we probably aren’t the easiest pair of people to get to know,” Casey continues. “Much less work with day in and day out.”

“After losing Carson, it’s just been hard to fill in the gaps,” Michael says, shrugging. “Hard to give you what you needed.”

“He’s the only one who had the patience to be friendly,” Casey says. “I trusted him to communicate feelings of reliance and respect on my behalf.”

“And I’ve been scared,” Michael says frankly. “I lost one man; I didn’t know how to let any of you see that without risking losing the rest of you. But when I saw you out there – I realized that I might have already.”

“And considering that there’s no one else in the Agency with your unique skills, that would be quite a loss,” Casey says, hedging just slightly but with more emotion than Billy has perhaps ever heard from him.

And just like that, Billy sees the pieces he’s been missing. He sees their reservations and their reticence not directed at him, but their own nagging doubts and hurts. They blame themselves, just as readily as Billy tries to shoulder the burden. They haven’t been holding back because they don’t trust Billy; they’ve held back because they don’t trust themselves.

He’s been so busy running from his past that he never stopped to see that the future doesn’t actually look so bad.

“So, we understand if you want to put in for a transfer,” Michael says, taking a steadying breath and visibly steeling himself. “You deserve a better team.”

With all of these revelations, Billy is actually dumbfounded. This is not a common occurrence for him, and he’d like to blame it on how knackered he feels, but it’s more than that. He’s missed all of it since he came to the CIA, since Carson died. He’s just missed it, and he feels daft all of a sudden.

His brow creases. “I don’t want a different team,” he says, because honestly, there’s no other answer. “I want this one.”

“Good,” Michael says, matter of fact. Still, he’s clearly pleased by the admission, even a little relieved. “And we want you.”

It’s said so simply. As if Billy should have known it all along.

They want him. They trust him and they need him and they want him. He doesn’t have a country and he doesn’t have a family and he lost Carson but he still has a team. He still has a place where he belongs and that’s the only second chance that matters.

The only thing that matters.

Wetting his lips, Billy nods his head. “Well,” he says, “that works out, then.”

Michael’s face splits into a grin. Even Casey’s eyes seem to be light with humor. “Yeah,” Michael agrees. “I suppose it does.”

Billy can’t change the past, but then, maybe he doesn’t have to if he can keep making a future like this.

end

Comments

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: February 9th, 2012 05:11 pm (UTC)
Hard at Work

That was a proper SNAFU and I really love resourceful Billy here.
Also how he doesn't really trust Michael and Casey just yet and doesn't trust himself is just perfect. Especially since we catch a glimpse of the relationship they are going to have when the series showed.

(Cross country running is actually very fun, probably more when you're not chased by gun wielding baddies :))

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: February 9th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)

Yay for Cross Country!

You're pry right about the gun wielding baddies...but at least it'd be incentive to go faster?

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: February 9th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)
Running

Runner's High is my incentive to get faster :)
That and the ambition to beat my time from the last run. I'm insane like that.

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: February 9th, 2012 09:31 pm (UTC)

No, I definitely know what you mean. I miss running so much - it was my favorite way to think and calm myself down, but I really can't do it anymore and it's frustrating :(

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 10th, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)
billy watches

I had fun putting Billy on his own, succeeding and failing in the same ways. And I do find that the pre series dynamic fascinates me, especially with the glimpse we got of Carson Simms. Mostly I just really hate that this show is over because it had so much awesomeness to explore.

(And LOL, you'll never convince me on the running front. I'm most decidedly not a runner. I like a decent workout but not running. And if you throw in gun wielding bad guys, I'm even less inclined :)

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: February 9th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)

oh, this is brilliant!

Oh, Billy! *hugs*

And I love all the emotion in this, especially in the end with all of them. And Billy trying to deal with his issues...while being chased by bad guys...

This is so, so good!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 10th, 2012 02:23 am (UTC)
chaos team 2

I was worried I made Billy too flaily and insecure. I mean, it's clear that he puts on a front, but I just wasn't sure if I'd played it up too much. LOL, so I'm glad you liked it :)

Thanks!

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: February 13th, 2012 11:06 am (UTC)
James and Cat


*sings* Billy, don't you lose my number...

////When he can’t help it, however, he can run quite well.////

Better than Jack Sparrow, for sure.

////If the shots are close enough to matter, ducking won’t do him much good.////

True! Great bit about him not being able (he thinks) to charm his team mates, his work persona, and the looks at him trying to fit into the team and re Carson.

I've got a bit about lost causes in a Nick/Stephen I'll post during this week *G*

////“Just followed you, like some kind of insufferable ray of light,”////

Hee - that he is. Reminds me of a favourite quote from an X-Files comic, which I've been trying to fit into a fic ever since:

Mulder: "How did you find me?"
Scully: "I went in the direction that everyone else was running from!"

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 14th, 2012 04:17 am (UTC)
chaos group

True! Great bit about him not being able (he thinks) to charm his team mates, his work persona, and the looks at him trying to fit into the team and re Carson.

I worried that I made him a bit too lacking in self confidence here. I mean, I definitely thought he put up facades during the show, but I didn't see him as quite this vulnerable, but then I also figured he probably had a bit of a process getting acclimated to the team, which was probably why he took Rick under his wing.

At least, that was how it worked in my mind. LOL.

I've got a bit about lost causes in a Nick/Stephen I'll post during this week *G*

I think you're almost teasing me with that! Because I am going to have to pine for it now!

Hee - that he is. Reminds me of a favourite quote from an X-Files comic, which I've been trying to fit into a fic ever since:

LOL. Yes. And really, this would fit Chaos quite well. I can see poor Rick having to say that to his teammates.

Anyhow. Thanks :)

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: February 24th, 2012 07:27 pm (UTC)
Heroism thy name is Billy

I LOVE this and that Billy's incorrect assumptions about the survival of the mission doesn't deter him from applying his all, expending everything he had both strength-wise and mentally. He never takes his mind or body off of the eventual outcome that, in his eyes, must happen. Then for him to be validated by the team, Michael giving him the permission to request another team, feeling that BILLY doesn't deserve them just as he is questioning his worth to them. I just LAP THAT STUFF UP!

Fave Parts:

And THIS LITERALLY KILLED ME!:

Billy tries to breathe again and coughs instead, convulsing with the effort.

Casey swears, low and uncharacteristically uncertain. “We’re losing him,” he says.

Michael looks to Casey. “Can you--?”

“You really want me to do a chest tube in the field without proper equipment and no painkillers?” Casey asks, eyebrows raised.

“Do we have another choice?”

Casey actually hesitates. “I just…I don’t know if it’ll work,” he admits.

Michael nods at the older man. “It’s the only chance he has,” he says. Then his eyes turn to Billy. “So hold on. We’re fighting for you, so don’t you stop fighting for us. Just a little longer.”

He moves away, talking back into his phone again.

Billy’s gaping now, feeling himself slip. Casey comes back into view, looking directly at Billy. “I apologize in advance,” he says. “I wouldn’t do it if I had another choice.”

Billy is confused by that, not sure what he means but then something sharp pierces his side and everything goes red then white then dark.



And just like that, Billy sees the pieces he’s been missing. He sees their reservations and their reticence not directed at him, but their own nagging doubts and hurts. They blame themselves, just as readily as Billy tries to shoulder the burden. They haven’t been holding back because they don’t trust Billy; they’ve held back because they don’t trust themselves.

He’s been so busy running from his past that he never stopped to see that the future doesn’t actually look so bad.

“So, we understand if you want to put in for a transfer,” Michael says, taking a steadying breath and visibly steeling himself. “You deserve a better team.”

With all of these revelations, Billy is actually dumbfounded. This is not a common occurrence for him, and he’d like to blame it on how knackered he feels, but it’s more than that. He’s missed all of it since he came to the CIA, since Carson died. He’s just missed it, and he feels daft all of a sudden.

His brow creases. “I don’t want a different team,” he says, because honestly, there’s no other answer. “I want this one.”

“Good,” Michael says, matter of fact. Still, he’s clearly pleased by the admission, even a little relieved. “And we want you.”

It’s said so simply. As if Billy should have known it all along.

-- THIS SCENE is SO affirming!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 1st, 2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Heroism thy name is Billy
billy watches

Normally I don't write Billy quite so uncertain but I really do think there's room for it in his character, especially in backstory. I love the notion of Billy being somewhat emotionally damaged from all the loss/pain in his life, so I'm glad I'm not the only one who can see it as plausible :)

And giving Billy a chest tube in the field was a fun last minute addition to the story. I always enjoying finding new ways to hurt him.

Thanks!

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