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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: Mumbled Prayers 1/1

March 29th, 2012 (12:38 pm)
okay
Tags: ,

feeling: okay

Title: Mumbled Prayers

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: Written based on Casey’s line in Mincemeat that you should never mumble a prayer. Beta services provided by sockie1000, who seems to somehow doubt her value as a beta and a friend :)

Warning: This fic has some religious content, with overt references to Christianity. Set pre series.

Summary: Casey can confront any foe, but there’s no way to fight this.



-o-

Strategically, it’s the best option.

Violence has gotten worse throughout the city over the last few days, and after a few rounds of shelling from the factions, there’s really not much left standing. Many of the homes and businesses are nothing more than rubble, long since abandoned by local civilians. The two sides have entrenched themselves in the buildings still standing, and so the abandoned Catholic church at the far end of the main square is really about the only choice left.

The place is shuttered, probably by its former patrons in some attempt to prevent looting. The main door has been broken through, and while the interior seems to be ransacked, the structure is still standing. More importantly, it’s empty. Apparently, even warring factions have some limitations.

Casey could muse on the reasoning, perhaps point out the irony or hypocrisy, but that’s really all secondary to him. Because the mission’s at stake – the documents are tucked secretly against his chest – and Casey needs a place where he can hole up until the fighting clears enough for him to sneak out and meet up with the transport Michael’s arranged just south of the city.

Normally, Casey wouldn’t mind toughing it out on the streets. He’d prefer some nook and cranny in a demolished building for the security alone. But this isn’t just about him. It’s not just about the mission either. Not anymore.

Not with Billy nursing a gunshot wound to the leg anyway.

The Scot had taken the shot almost two days ago. With a little field medicine, Casey managed to get the bullet out and stitch him up. Rudimentary, but mostly effective. However, the problem with field medicine isn’t just the lack of proper medical supplies – Casey’s fairly adept on the fly with whatever he has access to – it’s the unsanitary conditions. Because Casey can pull out a bullet and stitch skin together, but there’s not a lot to be done to combat the inevitable infection that follows.

And it is infected, Casey knows that no matter how much Billy is trying to hide it. The taller man is flushed with sweat and he’s gone from limping slightly to nearly hobbling. He’s not going to make it outside the city; he’s probably not going to make it five more feet. It’s when he stops talking amid the bursts of gunfire throughout the city’s corridors that Casey knows that taking refuge is really the only viable option they have left.

Which is why Casey takes a breath, girds himself and slings Billy’s arm over his shoulder. “This way,” he says and doesn’t even let the Scot try to respond as he drags him inside.

-o-

Casey does a quick check of the facility. There are more entrances than he’d like, but since everything of value has been taken, he figures it’s not likely they’ll get visitors. The only thing they have going for them in this operation is that they’re not actively being pursued. As long as they can keep out of sight, they’ll be able to avoid confrontation. Casey’s good, but he’s got an injured man and limited ammunition. At this point, either side of the fight is likely to shoot them first and just never ask questions.

Still, he drags Billy to the middle of the sanctuary. He considers some of the back rooms, but doesn’t like the idea of getting closed off in case of a potential conflict. The altar area is shielded by a partially demolished wall, which isn’t great cover, but Casey figures it’ll do.

Billy’s only semiconscious by this point, and he doesn’t open his eyes until Casey settles him on the floor. The room is dark – electricity has been out in the city for nearly a week now – and while the structure is intact, it’s showing signs of damage. There’s debris, some of it large, and Casey can make out visible cracks in the stone even in the dimness.

Billy’s eyes are wide, the whites shining with undue brightness as he blinks up at Casey. He’s trembling and it seems to be an effort to swallow. “Stopping off for a rest?” he asks, his voice thin and raspy.

The weakness worries Casey, makes him uneasy. He’s not scared of any enemy, but seeing people he cares about in less than peak physical capacity is unnerving. Billy’s usually so calm and collected; Casey won’t admit it, but he relies on that.

Still, Casey’s not about to let any of it show. He purses his lips and fixes Billy with an exasperated look. “I would have asked your opinion, but you were too busy passing out,” he says.

Billy smiles a little, his eyelids drooping slightly. “My apologies,” he says. “I hope you won’t take it as a personal comment against your choice in conversational nuance.”

Casey snorts, settling his pack down. “If anyone should complain about conversation, it’s me,” he says. “I mean, it shouldn’t take a bullet to make you finally stop talking.”

Billy feigns hurt. “My conversational skills are critical to the mission,” he protests.

Casey lifts his eyebrows. “If that’s what you need to tell yourself.”

Shifting a little, Billy does not seem mollified. “You’d be bored without me,” he says.

Casey shrugs coolly. “Yes, well, let’s not find out, okay?” he says, moving down toward Billy’s leg.

The Scot winces, lifting his head to look down. “How’s it looking?”

Carefully, Casey undoes the bandage, which is covering the shredded fabric of Billy’s pants. The row of black stitching is neat and tight, and there’s minimal blood, which is the good news.

The bad news is that the entire area is inflamed, tinted pus oozing between the stitches. Tentatively, Casey touches the area, which is burning hot.

Jaw tight, Casey puts the bandage back in place. When he looks back up, Billy is watching him, expectant. “So?”

Casey collects a breath and lets it out. He could lie; he’s a good liar, actually. But he doesn’t make a habit of lying to his teammates. Besides, he’s fairly certain Billy would see through it anyway, and the Scot deserves better.

“It’s infected,” he says, looking Billy in the eyes. “Badly.”

Billy takes the news without flinching. He sighs, letting his head drop back as he looks at the ceiling. “That explains the chills and intermittent numbness then,” he says.

Casey settles back. “Nothing a little antibiotics won’t fix,” he says with confidence. “We’ll wait here for the night and then head out to meet Michael in the morning.”

Wearily, Billy nods, but there’s no fast quip in response.

Casey’s stomach turns a bit. Gently, he pats Billy’s shoulder. “Just get some rest,” he says.

Billy’s eyes move to him, a little questioning.

“It’s the best thing you can do right now,” Casey says simply. “Because I would really rather not carry you out of here if we can help it.”

Billy’s lips tug up into a smile. “Given your lesser stature, that would be quite awkward,” he jokes.

Casey rolls his eyes. “You’re incapacitated, so I’ll let that one slide.”

Billy’s eyes are already fluttering shut and he exhales. “You’re just a big softie inside,” he murmurs, the words almost inaudible by the time he finishes.

Casey waits a moment, watching as Billy’s breathing evens out and his body relaxes with sleep.

Looking around, Casey checks his gun and checks his ammo. Satisfied, he tucks his gun close to him and glances around. The church is still silent, the empty rows of pews looking oddly lonely. The altar has been devastated, but the inscription in Latin is still clear to him, In Remembrance. Overhead, the only ornamentation left is the cross, the carved image of Jesus still hung, his head downturned toward them. There’s evidence of tampering around the edges of the sculpture, but the cross seems to have withstood all attempts to dislodge it.

Probably for the best, Casey muses. Some religious relics have considerable value, but this carving seems to be of common materials, similar to countless others around the world. It has mostly sentimental and presumably spiritual qualities, neither of which means much to Casey.

Sighing, Casey stifles a yawn and glances at Billy. The Scot is sleeping and pale, and Casey thinks that morning can’t come soon enough.

-o-

Casey drowses, still partially alert, but when the blast rocks nearby, Casey is still startled. He barely has time to brace himself when another explosion erupts and the building shakes violently, fresh debris raining down.

His instincts kick in, and by the time the third volley strikes, he’s covering Billy, his torso over Billy’s head as he’s pelted with stones and dust.

When the blasts give way to machine gun fire, Casey’s fingers tighten around his gun and he keeps himself low. The fighting isn’t aimed at them, which is a good thing, but it’s still hard to let his guard down in the middle of a firefight.

Beneath him, Billy rouses slowly. He has to blink several times, brow furrowed and eyes clouded with fever. His mouth moves but the words seem to get jumbled.

Casey meets his eyes, wills him to understand. “They must have pissed each other off again,” he says, voice low and fervent. “We just need to lie still, wait it out.”

It takes a moment, but Billy nods.

The gunfire is close and Casey feels the tension. He edges closer to Billy, and tells himself it’s a matter of logistics.

Billy’s eyes stay open, looking up at Casey before drifting over to the cross. “Come all ye who are burdened,” he says.

Casey glances back at him. “I didn’t take you for a religious man.”

Billy smiles wistfully. “The things I’ve done,” he says, words forced with heavy breaths, “I always sort of figured God might find me too much of a hypocrite to take me seriously.”

Another explosion rocks them and Casey leans closer still. “Well, if you’ve ever prayed,” he says, “now might be a good time.”

Billy looks vaguely amused. “Casey Malick, afraid?”

Casey glowers at him. “I’m just not opposed to help,” he says.

Billy coughs and takes a shuddering breath. It’s a clear effort but he says, “And I reckon God might not be opposed to listening.”

As the fighting rages outside and Billy’s breathing starts to rattle, Casey finds himself hoping that’s true.

-o-

The day persists. By dawn, the fighting is picking up its pace and by mid-morning, Casey faces the reality that they may be stuck there for a while. He settles in, breaking out a bit more of their rations, noting pragmatically that they’re going to have to go a bit hungry, just in case.

It’s a concern, but a secondary one, especially since Billy doesn’t eat much anyway. Casey might accuse the Scot of playing the martyr, but he simply doesn’t have the energy to eat. In all, he’s getting worse. A lot worse.

In the daylight, his breathing is noticeably compromised. The fever is showing in his cheeks now and he’s shaking in earnest. The wound is badly discolored and Casey knows he’s running out of time.

By nightfall, Billy’s hardly lucid. He mutters indiscriminately and it’s all Casey can do to make him drink some water.

Outside, there’s no sign of a break.

Casey does what he can, though, which isn’t much. Mostly, he sits there and watches. Sits there and worries. This isn’t what he does; he’s a man of action. He’s spent years training himself, perfecting his mind and body to tackle any task. He is beholden to know one and does not need the good grace of anyone to survive.

Most of the time.

This mission is testing him. Because there’s nothing Casey can do. His power and his control, as carefully wrought as they both are, mean nothing here. They mean nothing at all as he huddles down and watches Billy get worse.

These things are out of his hands. Casey can confront any foe, but there’s no way to fight this. He’s powerless; he’s nothing. His fate – and Billy’s – are not within Casey’s control.

He can’t admit that, but then, there’s no one here to call him on it. Not while Billy sleeps fitfully and the fighting continues just beyond the walls.

Looking up, the twisted figure on the cross is unmoving. Casey narrows his eyes suspiciously but there’s nothing to say as the night wears on.

-o-

In the early morning, Casey’s body is humming with adrenaline. He hasn’t slept – the constant gunfire has him on edge.

Billy’s going downhill, and quickly. The knowledge makes him restless; actually, it makes him terrified.

But there’s not much he can do about it. He has no medical supplies and there’s no way to get out with the constant barrage of gunfire. He’s just stuck. He has to sit there and wait and watch Billy die.

Maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Maybe it’s the gunfire. Maybe it’s the inactivity in the face of impending danger. Maybe it’s the weight of Billy condition and the irrational guilt that it’s his fault. But Casey’s losing it.

Because the mission should be over. Casey’s done everything right; he’s defied the odds and done what no one else could do. He’s gotten them this far, and that should be good enough.

It’s not, though. Casey’s best isn’t good enough. They should be in a hospital, getting Billy the help he needs. They shouldn’t be here, in the midst of a war that’s not theirs, in a church, while Billy dies.

Gunfire pings at the bricks and the building shudders. Casey lifts Billy into his lap as the ceiling creaks.

It’s not fair. It shouldn’t be like this. Billy’s a good spy; more than that, he’s a good man, and Casey can’t do anything to save him now.

Casey looks up, sees the cross. Sees the carved Jesus. He’s not a religious man, not even a little. He’s also not an atheist though, because he has a brain. The idea that mere chance alone created the complexities of the universe is too egocentric, even to him. He has a God complex a mile wide, and he’s aware that in order to think he can control the world around him, he has to logically believe that there’s something controlling the bigger picture as well.

Mostly, God makes sense. Religion never has, though, but Casey’s getting desperate. Because he’s in the middle of a warzone and Billy’s dying and Michael’s not here and the only thing left is a man on a cross.

“A little help would be appreciated, you know,” Casey says.

Beneath him, Billy stirs. Casey looks down surprised. The Scot isn’t looking at him, but past him, eyes on the cross. He smiles, even amid the cacophony. “Never mumble a prayer,” he says, words clear.

There’s a moment that Casey doesn’t dare disturb. Something in Billy’s countenance, something Casey can’t place but matters. It’s peace, it’s acceptance. It’s knowing he can’t do everything and somehow being okay with that after all.

Then, Billy’s eyes roll back and his body goes limp and the entire building rocks as a blast hits it full on.

-o-

The world seems to have shifted on its axis. Casey’s awake, but barely, and everything’s askew. Everything is overly bright and he blinks but he can’t clear the haziness from his eyes.

His ears are ringing – so loud, he can hardly hear. The world seems to be moving in a strange, stop-motion kind of way.

Time passes. Casey’s not sure how much. Somewhere, he thinks there’s yelling, but it’s farther away than before. Dust fills his nostrils and his body feels a little numb.

Billy’s in front of him, turned to the side, limbs loose in front of him. Casey can’t see if he’s moving, but somehow he knows the Scot is still alive.

And Casey’s on his knees. The rubble is all around him, but it hasn’t touched him or Billy. Looking up, the cross is closer now, surreally so, and it takes Casey a long moment to realize that the wall it’s on has given way. The only reason that Casey and Billy aren't smashed is that the strong, wooden frame is holding up it, creating a small pocket of safety in the otherwise demolished church.

In truth, there’s no way they should be alive. The odds are against it, to say the very least.

But Casey keeps his eyes where they are, fixed on the cross. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

Casey’s sense comes back to him. If this is a miracle, then he’s not about to waste it.

Stiffly, he reaches down and hoists Billy up. It’s work to get the other man’s larger frame over his shoulder and Casey wavers but doesn’t fall. Fighting or not, it’s time to make a run for it.

Before he leaves, he pauses, looks at the damaged figure. He inclines his head. “Thank you,” he says, loud and certain, before he takes off to the streets.

He runs without feeling his legs. There’s gunfire, but he doesn’t look back. Doesn’t need to. They’ll make it. He’s not sure how he knows, but he does know. Without a doubt.

When he finally makes it outside, Michael is already there, waiting like he knew Casey would be coming, even though that’s impossible.

Casey doesn’t realize how tired he is until he lets himself sink to the ground as Michael takes Billy from his shoulders. He finds himself on his back, blinking up at the sun. Michael hovers over him. “How did you make it out?” their team leader asks. “I was told there was no way to get through the artillery.”

Casey laughs, breathless and exhausted as his eyes start to close. “We had a little help,” he says and when he lets himself go, the world is bright and certain for the first time in years.

-o-

Afterward, when Casey’s been treated for his concussion, things seem a little more clear. He doesn’t remember much about the helicopter flight out, but he remembers Billy’s heart stopping at the hospital, remembers telling Michael that it’s okay, that Billy’s not alone in this before some nurse had stuck him in the arm and everything went blank.

Now on the mend, Casey’s made sense of things after debriefing with Michael, but there are still a few relevant details he’s kept to himself. After all, he’s not sure how to verbalize certain elements of the mission. For one, he’s not certain how they’re actually alive.

Rather, he is certain, but he’s not sure how to put down divine intervention on the mission report.

So Casey just doesn’t talk about it. If he doesn’t say it, then maybe it didn’t happen, and there’s more than enough to worry about with Billy’s recovery anyway.

It’s been a week since they made it out, and while Casey’s been mending, Billy’s had a more difficult journey. The infection has been bad, and that’s an understatement. After being revived in the ER, Billy was caught up in a deep fever. It turned quickly to pneumonia, and, even now, the antibiotics are just barely keeping the damaging effects at bay. The fever finally peaked a few days ago, but Billy’s weakened body is beaten down, still hovering in unconsciousness.

So Casey sits. And Casey watches. It’s not so unlike being trapped in a church with gunfire all around, only this time the constant barrage is Billy’s heart monitor and not the patter of gunfire against brick. Michael knows better than to ask him to leave, and in the long hours at Billy’s bedside, Casey finds himself looking up.

The wall here is empty, though. Just dingy beige walls and electrical outlets. It’s practical, but somehow it’s also lonely. Casey keeps thinking if he can make it one more night, one more hour, one more minute, but at this point, he’s not so sure what he’s waiting for at all.

All in all, Casey feels like he’s about to lose control again and make all of this – the mission, the church, the escape – for naught. Which is of course when Billy finally decides to take pity on him and wake up.

He’s confused, understandably, but this is Billy so he gets himself together fairly quickly. While they’re recounting what happened, Billy’s brow creases and he asks, “But how did we get out?”

“I ran,” Casey replies, simply and truthfully.

Billy shoots him a look. “I mean, if the church collapsed and we were surrounded by gunfire, how did we get out?”

It’s a fair question, one that Michael has been willing to overlook in the week since it happened. But Billy was there and Billy knows on some level, which makes this harder and easier all at once.

Still. Casey pauses, face composed. “Before the church blew up, you were conscious,” he says, nodding at Billy purposefully. “Do you remember?”

Billy looks thoughtful. “I think so,” he says. “It’s a bit hazy though.”

“What do you remember from that moment?”

Billy frowns and considers. “You were scared,” he says, almost as a realization. Then he cocks his head. “And the cross.”

Casey quirks his eyebrow and lets the memory speak for itself. “We’ll just say that maybe God listens to hypocrites after all,” he says.

Billy seems to consider this. He’s silent for a moment, then he smiles and shakes his head.

“What?” Casey asks, suspiciously.

Billy shrugs. “This is a miracle,” he says.

“You mean that we survived the explosion and made it all the way through the city without incident?” Casey asks.

Billy waves a hand, his IV trailing his movement. “No, no,” he says, a little dismissively. “I just never would have pegged you, the great Casey Malick, as a believer after all.”

It’s a joke, but somehow Billy’s not mocking him. And somehow, Casey’s okay with it.

After all, Casey does what he needs to to survive, and if there’s someone out there to help him out with that, then that’s really not so bad.

Looking at Billy, weak but alive, Casey thinks that’s really not so bad at all.

Comments

Posted by: sockie1000 (sockie1000)
Posted at: March 29th, 2012 09:22 pm (UTC)

Well, you already I love your Billy and Casey stories and this one is no exception. I especially liked Billy and Casey’s conversations about hypocrites and help. And the way you have Casey transforming from the man who suspiciously eyes the cross to then looking for it and feeling lonely at the hospital is touching and beautifully symmetrical. I also loved Casey not being sure how to put divine intervention down on a mission report, lol. That would be hard to put into words.

As to the shout-out, well, sometimes it is hard to feel adequate when I ramble on nonsensically for a few sentences and then you turn around and write four paragraphs that are so perfect my jaw hits the ground. So, yeah. But I’m glad my ramblings have some value to you. :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 1st, 2012 02:07 pm (UTC)
billy considers

I'm sure in fics like this my personal beliefs show themselves, so it's always reassuring that it still seems in character. So thank you!

LOL. Your ramblings have immense value for me. I write without a brain/hand filter most of the time, so having someone who I can trust to read my stuff without feeling embarrassed is critical. Not to mention everything else we talk about :) And especially when I'm so poor at reciprocating sometimes! Honestly, I wonder how anyone bothers to spend time with me at all!

Anyway, thanks again :)

Posted by: sockie1000 (sockie1000)
Posted at: April 3rd, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)

now who's doubting her value as a friend? ;D

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: March 30th, 2012 03:53 am (UTC)
Old Fashioned Stephen


I'd forgotten that line! Another excuse to rewatch episodes ;)

I love Billy and Casey bonding, and the important roles the cross plays in their thoughts and survivals.

Hee for Billy's end line.


Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 1st, 2012 02:09 pm (UTC)
casey general dislike

I had forgotten it to and then when I rewatched Mincemeat, it struck me as a great opportunity for fic (because it seemed somewhat unlike Casey, and I wanted to know why he thought that!).

I'm a huge fan of Billy/Casey bonding, so I seem to keep writing it. Their odd coupling just works for me.

Thanks!

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: March 30th, 2012 07:29 am (UTC)
Team2

I love that you chose Casey as the one who found faith/believe in that church.
The whole situation hits very close and the way you describe the atmosphere is amazing.
Again another marvelous fic that really lifted my spirits :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 1st, 2012 02:09 pm (UTC)
billy likes

I'm so glad you liked it! I was worried about it a bit for the religious/spiritual tones in it, but the idea seemed to vivid in my head not to pursue.

Thank you!

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: March 30th, 2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
Chaosketeers

*whispers because he probably doesn't want to hear this" I love Casey Malick.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 1st, 2012 02:10 pm (UTC)
casey general dislike

Heh. He probably would make a scene if you told him (but I think he might secretly like it!).

Thanks!

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