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H50/Chaos fic: Interagency Cooperation 4/7

April 19th, 2012 (06:55 am)
thoughtful

feeling: thoughtful

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE
PART FOUR
PART FIVE
PART SIX
PART SEVEN




PART FOUR

It’s going too well.

This is always a tip off to Casey. Michael is the paranoid one of the group, but that’s only a matter of extremes. Casey has trained his senses too completely not to be paranoid, and he prefers to consider it all a matter of survival. In all practicality, what most people call paranoia, Casey simply considers common sense, and he takes certain pride in that.

And yet, it’s a touchy balance. His paranoia helps him see all possible risks and outcomes; his paranoia allows him to be better prepared and to properly divert his attentions and hone his skills. His paranoia, in a perverse way, gives him the confidence he needs to get the job done.

But this so-called confidence is then further hindered by fresh onslaughts of paranoia. The more confident he is in his own ability to snuff out impending disaster and his ability to compensate for it, the more he has to worry that he’s missing something entirely.

This is a strange sort of insanity, but over the years, Casey has learned to keep it in check quite nicely. He is confident, but not too confident, and he trusts his abilities as much as he trusts his doubts.

It works.

Except when it doesn’t, which is how he knows it works the most. Because despite all odds, he’s still alive, his team is still alive, and they always manage to pull the mission out.

So when he thinks this is all going too well, he’s smart enough to take notice, even if there’s nothing he can do about it at this point except to keep doing what he’s doing.

Which is setting charges at sea.

Really, he finds this exercise to be more invigorating than usual. Most of his missions occur on dry land – usually in jungles or urban centers or the occasional desert or two – so the chance to be in the water is something different. Casey likes different. Different is challenging. He needs new situations, new contexts to keep him continually on his toes.

Of course, it would be more gratifying if it were actually a challenging task. Sometimes Casey thinks that the dangerous consequence of being too well trained is that nothing surprises him any more. Even things that go wrong are somehow expected, and in the end, it’s more anticlimactic than not.

(Which isn’t to say that Casey actually wants the drama. Because he doesn’t like to see his team in jeopardy, and it’s like walking a tightrope trying to balance the inherent need for adrenaline and the paralyzing fear of falling.)

Still, all of Casey’s whims and wants are superfluous. Ultimately, Casey is a pragmatist; every situation can have inherent benefit if he works it correctly, so, really, it’s all a matter of perspective.

And in this case, it’s been a long time since Casey has worked with underwater explosives. The entire concept is fascinating – setting a charge that will disrupt water enough to cause a massive tidal disturbance – and he likes the contrasting elements of fire and water, working together in unlikely harmony to achieve the desired end. More than that, he finds underwater maneuvering to be both challenging and equipping, since it gives him a new level of control over his body, assuming, of course, that he knows how to leverage the lack of gravity to his benefit.

Which, he does. Because Casey’s spent countless hours underwater perfecting such things, so working in the warm ocean currents is a pleasant means of putting those skills to the test.

Plus, if he’s underwater, then he doesn’t have to talk. Casey often prefers to work in silence – noise is best suited as a distraction – and when he’s breathing through an apparatus, that automatically stifles any attempts at small talk. Such methods of communication are entirely more efficient, and as he and Kelly work in unison to set the charges just so, Casey discovers that they work in tandem quite well.

Probably because Kelly is also something of a pragmatist. Perhaps more of an optimist than Casey himself, but he can appreciate Kelly’s plaintive approach to police work and life in general. Casey may not buy into the laid-back island attitude, but he certainly respects a man who flourishes in any circumstance and doesn’t look to change the big picture, but merely to better find his place in said big picture to achieve the best possible outcome.

All things considered, Casey thinks this mission could be going worse. True, it could be going better, but Casey’s initial observation still stands: when things go too well, then it’s high time to worry.

So the fact that they have to work with local PD in a non-official capacity, thereby risking their covers and their ultimate control over the mission’s outcome is actually a good thing, because something has to go wrong in order for it all to go right.

But, then again, as Casey sets the last charge and heads back to the surface, he can’t shake the sense that somehow it’s not going quite wrong enough. Their hitch has been earlier than he might have anticipated, and Casey feels like he’s waiting for the other proverbial shoe to fall.

Or explode. Or whatever it is that proverbial shoes do on not-so-proverbial missions.

At the surface, Kelly removes his breathing gear and flashes a smile as they tread water together in the vast ocean. “Looks good,” he says, and he sounds truly content and pleased with the outcome.

With reason. The charges have been expertly place at even intervals in the water. It’s a wide net, and they’ve buoyed them sufficiently to keep track of them after the mission is over. After all, they may want to disable the boat before it escapes, but they can’t be so careless as to leave the charges there permanently. It’s not necessarily a fun detail to think about, but Chin knows that setting the charges is only part of the job. When they have their arrests and whatnot, he’ll be spending just as much time under the water retrieving the remaining charges and clearing up before heading back to land.

On top of this, they’ve set the charges just so in order to ensure that the boat will not vacate the area successfully. It seems like tedious work, no doubt – because, frankly, it is a bit monotonous – but it’s an imperative part of the mission, and Casey has never been one to turn his nose up at the grunt work when it is required of him.

Still, he’s not one to share unbridled optimism, even when it may be warranted.

So Casey scowls instead, removing his own breathing gear as the salty water laps against his chin. “It looks acceptable,” he amends. “Assuming we don’t see a major change in the currents.”

Chin is nonplussed by his negativity. “Weather should be clear today,” he says. “I think we’re safe overall.”

This is true, which is one of the many reasons why Casey is more nervous than he’d like to be regarding the outcome of this mission. “We’re setting up a sting to take down a major worldwide crime syndicate,” Casey reminds him with a pointed look. “Somehow I’m not sure that safety is an appropriate word for anything regarding this mission.”

Chin inclines his head. “You know, sometimes things go as well as you think they well.”

Casey snorts. “I’m familiar with the placebo effect,” he says. “But it only works on the weak-minded and poorly informed. I’ve survived ten years in the field because I refuse to let myself be soft. On anything.”

Chin looks at him curiously. “Life is more than survival,” he says, and the way he says it suggests that he may know what he’s talking about.

“But survival is the linchpin to life,” Casey counters.

Chin smiles. “There’s more than a little truth to that, brah,” he says. “But if I spent my entire life worrying about what could go wrong, then I’m not sure there’d be much worth living for. I’ve had the worst happen, and negativity didn’t help me get through it.”

“Yes, but positivity clearly didn’t help you avoid it either,” Casey says.

Chin eyes him with a measure of bemusement as they tread water. “You do remember that this entire mission was your idea, right?”

“I think of it less as my idea and more as a natural extension of years of work and intelligence,” Casey tells him above the sound of the water.

Chin continues to float effortlessly. “My point is that you should probably be a bit more sure about it,” he says.

“Oh, I’m sure,” Casey tells him. “But I also know how complex this case is. Everything has to be in place. If even one element is off, we run the risk of ruining the entire mission, which is years of work down the drain.”

Chin nods. “We put the charges in place, just as instructed,” he says. “Couldn’t have done it better.”

Casey can’t argue that, even if he is so inclined. “Perfection should always be the goal,” he says instead. “But it should never be assumed that one can ever reach it.” He pauses, eyeing Chin decidedly. “Especially for those not accustomed to such lofty aims.”

Laughing a little, Chin shakes his head. “Don’t let the island lifestyle fool you,” he says with a measure of warning. “We still take our work very seriously.”

Casey lifts his eyebrows. There could be some truth to this because Chin has been nothing if not efficient and thorough in his work. But Casey is not one to dole out compliments, especially to low level cops he’s just met with an entire mission on the line.

He opts for a fresh scowl instead. “This carries more weight than I think you’re used to,” he says.

Chin shrugs. “I’m in the middle of the ocean planting charges based on intel I haven’t seen first hand,” he says. “I think I’m pretty well invested.”

“Well, I haven’t made it all these years by taking the word of others,” Casey says. “Are you sure you charged your mines?”

“Ready to blow when tripped,” Chin reports.

“And we’ll be able to retrieve the unused ones?” Casey asks.

“If we don’t, I’m going to be the one answering for it,” he says. “So yeah, we’ll be able to retrieve the ones that don’t blow.”

“And we have the correct amount of force?”

Chin laughs outright. “It’s all good,” he says with more confidence now. He looks at Casey earnestly. “I promise.”

The promise means nothing to Casey, no matter how well intentioned and inherently trustworthy Kelly appears. Casey puts little stock in such things, especially with unproven assets in the field when the mission and the lives of his teammates are on the line.

And yet, Casey has nothing left to ask. He’s checked and double checked and every detail has been accounted for to the point where Casey is out of thins to hold Chin accountable for.

Not that Casey’s about to admit it, even if he can’t argue it. “Promises are nothing more than words,” he says instead. “I prefer to see results.”

“Then some patience is probably in order,” Chin advises.

“I’ve been working on this case for years,” Casey says, as a matter of fact. “I think I understand patience.”

“Could have fooled me,” Chin says coyly.

Casey shakes his head. “I have no interest in fooling you. It’d be entirely counterproductive,” he says. “Now, as fascinating as our banter regarding life’s lessons may be, I believe we’re due to check in right about now.”

Chin nods his head, still grinning a bit. “I suppose practicality can be our common ground,” he says, starting to swim back toward that boat.

Casey grunts as he follows, but he doesn’t disagree. For as much as he can find to complain about in this mission, there’s something refreshing about Chin’s outlook; something Casey can appreciate even as he seeks to undermine it altogether. Because Chin isn’t a blatant optimist; he doesn’t spew nonsense like Billy does to distract from the point. He doesn’t even believe blindly in inherent goodness and justice like Rick does in his naïveté.

Chin, rather, sees life for what it is and simply chooses to adapt a more optimistic spin. There’s nothing brash or naive; just simplistic. It’s that simplicity that Casey can admire; it’s such simplicity that Casey has striven for most of his life. He prefer life without frills; missions without unnecessary attachments. Things should be simple, straightforward.

There’s safety in such predictability, security in said simplicity. There is no ambiguity to muddy judgment, no uncertainty to cloud the bigger picture.

Chin is right that things are going well.

Which is why Casey is right that said fact is inherently problematic.

It’s a fear he keeps to himself, however. He likes Chin and he has a working trust with the man, but he’s not quite ready to share his doubts just yet.

Besides, when they’re both back on the boat, he doesn’t need to share his doubts because they are almost instantly confirmed.

In fact, Casey knows it before Chin does, knows it the minute Chin’s call goes through and McGarrett’s voice sounds curtly over the receiver.

He’s not quite able to make out the details, especially not when Chin turns away, face pinched. He’s talking with the wind, so Casey has no choice but to stand back and watch as the muscles in his back tighten and his posture stiffens as the conversation progresses.

When he finally turns back around, his face is grim and Casey waits expectantly. “So,” he says.

Chin’s jaw works. “There’s been a complication,” he says.

Casey just stares at him. “I was hoping to start by not stating the obvious,” he says plainly, even if his stomach roils at the notion because he’s been expecting something and he’s only too aware of how bad it might actually be.

Still, it comes a bit like a punch in the gut when Chin says, “Danny and Billy were made. As best Steve can tell, they’ve been taken out to sea while the bad guys figure out who they work for.”

It’s a straightforward answer, which Casey can appreciate.

But it’s also not an answer that Casey particularly wants to hear, even if he’s suspected it. Really, Casey isn’t surprised at the complication.

True, Casey is less than thrilled at this turn of events, but he can hardly claim to be surprised. After all, missions for the ODS are only normal if things are going horrifically wrong, so ultimately, knowing that Billy and Detective Williams have been taken captive is simply the way it’s supposed to be.

And it surprises Casey even less that it’s Billy who has managed to find trouble for himself. It’s not that the Scotsman is unprofessional or incapable, but more that he has a penchant for trouble. At least, that’s what Billy would have people believe, but after years on Billy’s team, he’s come to realize that the Scot isn’t so much inclined to bad luck as he is to being a self sacrificial idiot. Every member of the ODS will take a bullet for the rest, but Billy’s wholehearted way about that is to start throwing himself on grenades without caution.

So despite the fact that the entire thing is unsurprising, it’s still bad news, and Casey dislikes the idea of Billy in peril so much that he can’t even take much pleasure in the fact that all his senses were right when he thought things were going too well.

Chin is still standing there, face tight. Then he shakes his head, moving toward the edge of the boat and snagging his breathing gear. “We can still undo the charges,” he says.

For a second, Casey thinks he may have misheard the other man. Because he can see no rational reason for the man to dive back in and undo their morning’s work, especially when the greater concern of teammates in peril is in play.

Casey shakes his head. “And why would we do that?”

Chin pauses long enough to look at Casey. “If we blow the charges with Danny and your partner in the boat, it could kill them.”

“We designed the charges to disable the boat; not kill people,” Casey reminds him.

“But we could still sink the boat,” Chin contends.

“Which is why we hope they can swim,” Casey says.

“And how hard will it be to swim with your hands tied?” Chin asks, a bit sharply now, the fear cutting into his voice.

This is a fact that Casey hasn’t fully considered yet, but it actually does make some sense. If Billy and his civilian friend are captured, then they are likely restrained and being held in an out of the way location. Such locations are often far from exits, and there is often the use of external restraints involved. These measures are effective at keeping prisoners at bay during sensitive dealings. They are far less effective as escape routes when a boat has been disabled and possibly filling with water.

In short, the field of charges in the water may stop the bad guys.

It may also kill Billy.

In this, Casey understands Kelly’s impulse. It’s an image Casey is entirely uncomfortable with – the idea of Billy being held captive is only moderately unsettling, but thinking of him drowning due to measures Casey set in place is almost unbearable.

But the panic has to be fleeting. Because that assumes that Billy won’t be able to engineer a way out, which he usually can, or that Casey or Michael for that matter won’t be able to get below deck immediately and make sure Billy and the detective are able to escape.

Such assumptions are risks, and Casey knows that. But he knows they can pull it off.

“No more difficult than trying to rescue them when they’ve both been taken out into the open waters because we fail to properly arm our dragnet,” Casey counters, and his voice is cool and tense as he does his best to belie the spike of panic in his own gut.

Chin’s eyes are blazing; he’s thoroughly unconvinced. “I can’t put Danny in danger like that,” he says.

It’s an admirable sentiment, but one that Casey can’t indulge. “He’s already in danger,” he says. “The plan is already in motion. If we fail on our end now, we risk everything, including the lives of our men.”

“We can’t gamble with their lives,” Chin insists.

Casey snorts a laugh. “That’s what we’ve been doing all along,” he says. “If you haven’t noticed, we’re at sea placing charges for this bust. One wrong move and it could all come tumbling down.”

“It’s already tumbling,” Chin says.

“Which is why we have to control where the pieces fall.”

Chin is stiff. “You really think you can do that?”

“I don’t think,” Casey returns. “I know.”

It’s Chin’s turn to be unconvinced. “People matter more than the mission.”

“Of course they do,” Casey replies. “But you assume that rolling over and letting the bad guys win from the outset is the best solution. Yes, we could put our men at increased risk. But if we don’t, we could lose them anyway with nothing to show for it.”

Chin looks like he’s still ready to bolt. “Is that a risk you’re willing to take?”

“It’s a risk I have to take,” Casey says. “One that I’ve trained for and prepared for and I fully trust my own abilities to get this job down and get everyone out alive. We go over the details, triple check our calculations. We move the charges if we have to, add a few more, lessen their force. We make sure there’s no escape for the boat and that we can minimize the actual damage to the vessel to give ourselves more time for an extraction. We do that as many times as it takes and we’ll be ready for them. We’ll be ready.”

Chin is still looking at him, more piercingly than before. His face is still tense before he finally shakes his head. “You know,” he says, relaxing his hand somewhat and putting his diving gear back down, “for a realist, you’ve got some pretty idealistic notions.”

“It’s not idealism,” he says. “It’s survival, remember?”

Chin sighs. “I don’t suppose I can forget now, can I?”

Neither of them can, and that has to be enough as Casey settles in. It’s not going very well anymore, which Casey thinks should make him feel better overall about their prospects.

If it doesn’t, Casey’s not about to admit it.

-o-

If Rick finds being stuck in the van like the perpetual new guy frustrating, he finds being stuck in the van when the entire mission is nearly shot to hell damn near impossible to stomach.

He’s mostly used to being abused and neglected by his team. He’s used to being foisted with the bad jobs and the annoying tasks. He’s used to being left behind in motel rooms and being thrown into the unknown for the sheer sake of it. He’s used to being the new guy, no matter how much he also knows that he deserves to be the guy.

And he knows that the tasks he’s dealt have to be done; they are important on a broad scale. Backup at this location makes sense; monitoring the data remotely at a centralized location is a logical tasks. Someone needs to coordinate a mission of this scale, and Rick respects that. But that doesn’t mean he likes it, but he usually finds himself abiding by them because he doesn’t really have much choice.

But sitting in the van with some rookie cop while Casey is at sea, Michael is in pursuit, and Billy is captured? Is something he feels like he should have some choice about.

Because Billy is captured and Michael is in pursuit and Casey is at sea and Rick is in some damned van listening to boat chatter and watching blips on a radar screen. If the bad guys were saying something of interest, it might be helpful. But even after Ito got on board, it’s been tense and silent. The only mention of Billy and Danny had been to say they’d deal with it later.

Even in Japanese, through the static-filled transmission, Rick knows when later is and he knows how they intend to deal with it. It’s a death sentence for Billy and Danny, and Rick’s sitting there, listening to nothing while it happens.

Next to him in the van, Kono is staring hard at the console in front of her. She taps a few keys intermittently, her headphones pressed to one ear and slung behind her ear on the other side. She hasn’t moved since she got off the phone with McGarrett, and Rick gets the impression that she’s taking this about as well as he is.

Still, their orders are explicit. Michael had told him that he needed to stay put. McGarrett had told Kono he needed her at the van. Rick understands being creative in his interpretation of orders by now, but these seem pretty hard to circumvent.

And, it’s true, Rick knows why they’re doing this; he knows they have to get an ID on the second boat in order to make sure the rest of the mission goes well. He knows that they have to monitor the bug that Billy and Danny planted. He knows they have to play point while Michael and Casey and their partners are in the field. He doesn’t deny the value of that kind of intel, but he also won’t deny that he feels utterly useless. He knows what Casey told him in Russia; that sometimes the boring jobs are the important jobs, and he can believe that on most missions, but when someone from the team is in peril, it just feels wrong.

It is wrong, and Rick knows it. Because Rick’s been the one in peril before; he’s been the one shot in the back of a van, stuck in a Russian police station with a cover hanging together by a thread, and his team has never left him for the wolves.

They wouldn’t sit in a van.

They wouldn’t.

“We can’t just sit here,” Rick says finally, mind working through the situation again.

She doesn’t really flinch and doesn’t look up. “We have our orders.”

Rick just laughs at that because if he’s learned anything from the ODS, it’s that orders are more like loose suggestions rather than hard and fast rules. “And you want to go with that?”

This time she does look up and for the first time, she actually looks her age. “What else are we supposed to do?”

In truth, this is a valid question and it’s the same one that Rick’s been going over in his head ever since the news of Billy and Danny’s capture was relayed to them. McGarrett had curtly ordered them to maintain their position, to keep monitoring and playing organizational point in order to get tabs on the second unknown vessel that will be used in the bust.

This is the critical component to their mission. Identifying the second vessel will be a necessary step in apprehending all the bad guys when things are said and done and if Rick and Kono screw that up, there’s a chance that the bad guys could slip by or take them all by surprise. More than that, someone has to make sure that the deal is really going down and plan the timing of the actual bust accordingly. If someone isn’t doing that, there’s a chance that they’ll miss something critical and time the entire thing wrong, which could be disastrous both for the mission and for Billy and Danny.

Considering how badly this mission is going, Rick knows that minimizing those risks is imperative.

But that still doesn’t mean that he just wants to sit here and do nothing.

“We find the boat,” he says.

Kono laughs grimly, looking back at the equipment. “What do you think we’re doing?”

“I think we’re sitting here, waiting for the boat to come to us,” he says, mind moving faster now as the makings of a revised plan come to him. This is another skill he’s learned from the ODS: to think on the fly without giving into doubt or self-recriminations.

“And...?” Kono prompts.

Rick leans forward, looking at the equipment with fresh interest. “And we could be going out there and tracking the second boat ourselves.”

Kono watches him uncertainly. “How do you think that will work?”

“Think about it,” Rick says, flipping through the intel. He knows the information is there, knows he just has to look for it and put it together. “We didn’t have a lot of time to put this together and the buyers were never our focus.”

“Which was why an APB was enough,” Kono agrees. Then her eyes brighten in sudden understanding. “But we know what we’re looking for so we can look while we’re in pursuit.”

“Exactly,” Rick says, feeling his excitement buoy even further. “And since we know the destination, all we need to do is start moving in the general direction--”

“And see what boats cross our paths,” she says. “Shouldn’t be too hard to sort out the sightseeing tours from the criminals.”

Rick looks up, eyes bright. He’s glad he doesn’t have to explain it. Gladder still that this makes sense; this will work. It’s certainly not an approved portion of the mission, but few things with the ODS are. It’s about time he started playing like the rest of the team – now, more than ever. “And cut the response time in half,” he continues.

“So there’s no chance for them to get away,” Kono says, not missing a beat.

Rick can’t help it: he smiles. He has to wonder if this is how Michael feels all the time. It’s like Billy told him after his first day on the job: he has to think three steps ahead if he’s going to make it.

He has to think more than that if he’s going to ensure that Billy makes it, too. “And we’ll be there when it all goes down,” he says, which is what he really wants and he doesn’t have to say that out loud for Kono to understand it, too.

“But what about the surveillance equipment?” Kono reminds him. “We still need to listen in for the signs that the sale is over.”

Brow furrowed, Rick thinks quickly. “We take it with us.”

“It’s an entire van,” Kono reminds him, eyebrows raised.

“Yeah, but we just need the receiver,” Rick says, eyeing the equipment with interest now. “We can have sonar on any boat and simple radio contact is all we need to double check the owners of boats. We just have to remove the transceiver and transplant it into an alternate power source.”

It sounds crazier out loud than it does in his head. It’s the hard way of doing things, and there’s no doubt about it. He suddenly realizes why every plan his team comes up with seems so ridiculous but ends up making so much sense. If the easy way worked, they’d use it. Since it didn’t, sometimes the convoluted and the roundabout was the only way to go.

Kono laughs softly. “That’s pretty ingenious,” she says. “You CIA types would fit right in with the way we work.”

Rick lifts his eyebrows. “You haven’t seen anything yet,” he says. It’s impossible not to think of what plans Michael is hatching, what destruction Casey will be ready to cause. What improvising Billy will pull off to make this work. Because this is the nature of the ODS: they make it up as they go but they’re good enough to pull it off.

Rick hopes they’re good enough to pull it off.

Next to him, Kono just snorts. “Neither have you.”

The way she says it makes Rick believe her. He doesn’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Really, though, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the mission.

The only mission that matters is his team.

Rick may be the new guy, but he’s figured that much out pretty quickly.

Still, knowing it and accomplishing it are different things entirely. He can still remember how he took a bullet in South America. He can still remember how his cover was blown in Russia. And his botched attempt to secure a new asset in Bangkok is fresh in his mind. These are some of his failures in the CIA. They’re not necessarily his fault, but they are failures nonetheless.

His team had saved him those times.

He has to return the favor.

Resolved, Rick looks up at Kono. “We’re going to need a boat,” he says conclusively.

Kono’s gaze doesn’t waver. “I think I can manage that,” she says.

Rick doesn’t ask her how; he doesn’t have to. Somehow he trusts in what she says. From one rookie to another, Rick recognizes determination and grit when he sees it. “Okay, then,” he says, papers still in hand. “You ready to do this?”

Kono’s mouth quirks into a smile. “I thought you’d never ask.”

-o-

Billy doesn’t particularly like getting banged up. It’s painful, after all, and a bit rough on his looks, if he’s honest. He doesn’t fancy himself one for vanity, but he does rather like the shape and proportion of his facial features, if it’s all the same to anyone else.

Which, unfortunately, it’s not. Some people, it seems, are dead set on inflicting pain on others and for whatever reason, Billy seems to make an apt target.

This isn’t so uncommon, Billy knows. His job is one of sundry perils and despite his best efforts to minimize his exposure to pain, injury, and other physical impairments, sometimes such things are just unavoidable in his line of work.

That doesn’t mean he likes it; it also doesn’t mean that he’s going to let anyone see just how much it bothers him. After all, Billy has found that when he’s unarmed and at the mercy of angry and dangerous people, his last line of defense is a positive attitude. It’s a funny thing, really, how angry people find a chipper attitude so positively annoying and definitively dangerous.

Of course, said angry people would be better off if they were a bit more creative in their tactics.

In an act of total cliché behavior, their captors forced them by gunpoint to the lowest part of the boat. After a few terse insults and a handful of irate shoves, Billy and his detective companion had been forced to their knees and handcuffed to the nearby duct work, which runs horizontal across the walls and a bit low to the ground of their overly cozy prison. Then, their not-so-clever captives had stood over them to begin the so-called interrogation.

“Who are you?” is the first question.

Billy manages not to laugh, but just barely. In the journey on board, he’s already been cold cocked once, and while he fully expect to endure more pain before this is over, he knows that staying conscious is probably beneficial at the moment.

Instead, he smiles, tilting his head in what he supposes is a friendly gesture. “Told you, mate,” he says. “Just started in at the docks. My name is Will and this here is my friend--”

The backhand across his face is fast – Billy has to give them credit there. He didn’t even see it coming until stars are dancing across his vision and there’s blood welling in his mouth.

“Who are you?” the lieutenant demands again in stunted English.

Billy is gathering his wits for what he knows will be a witty reply, when Detective Williams sees fit to interject. “No one!” he exclaims, sounding sincerely worried and bothered by this turn of events. “I mean – come on, we work there! We’re staff!”

Billy manages to clear his vision in time to see the man lash out again, this time at Danny. It’s a kick, though, that catches the blonde detective in the stomach and he curls forward with a grunt.

“We all know those are lies!” the lieutenant says, anger punctuating his words with force.

While it is true that Billy doesn’t like to get hit, he likes it less when he sees other people suffering the same, especially when they’re either totally innocent or, worse, working with him. It just never sits right with him, to see others getting bullied around. He’s been on the receiving end of it too many times to wish it on others, and he knows that he’s wished more than once for someone to come rescue him so he always feels inclined to offer the same to others in any way he can.

Even when it means directing peril back his way.

“Well, if you know so much then, perhaps you could enlighten us,” Billy says, lifting himself as straight as he can to draw attention away from Danny, who is still recovering. “Because I assure you, we’ve told you all we know.”

The man steps forward, sneering. “Do you work for the competition?” he asks. “Or are you just pathetic cops?”

“I’m not entirely sure who the competition might be,” Billy says. “And I can promise you that in no way am I anything resembling a cop. I’m not even American, if you haven’t noticed, but I think it’s safe to say that either way, this is something of a misunderstanding.”

Billy’s playing this polite for the most part, with proper deference and he’s ready to grovel just a bit if his cover calls for it. A few humiliating lies are preferable to a few proud gunshot wounds, as far as he’s concerned.

The lieutenant narrows his eyes, seeming to consider it for a moment. The two men behind him look nervous, guns still in hand. A moment passes and Danny is erect again, eyeing the exchange cautiously while Billy holds himself immeasurably still. He’s going for earnestness here, and it’s about the only chance they feasible have of escaping from this without further pain.

Then the lieutenant shakes his head, lips twisted in anger. “You talk a lot,” he says. “But say nothing. We can change that or you can die for it.”

This time, Billy sees the punch coming, but that doesn’t actually help him much. He braces just slightly as the fist rakes across his face and he’s too busy falling over to see the foot that follows up with a vicious kick to his ribs. After that, the barrage is hard to track because pain registers throughout Billy’s body.

He falls to the floor – or tries to anyway. His hand is still handcuffed to the duct work, which makes falling awkward work, and his arm is tweaked as his body is forced down anyway. There’s a particularly hard hit to his head and everything goes white and Billy loses control of his body as he’s suspended between awareness and oblivion.

In that space, Billy can still hear. He hears his own grunts and then he hears Danny’s voice, strained and desperate. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, come on!” he says. “You’re going to what – beat us? Then what answers are you going to get, huh? Use some common sense!”

It’s a weak argument, but somehow, it’s enough. The blows stop, and Billy remembers to breathe. Still, everything is hazy, and he finds himself unable to move, even as the conversation continues above him.

“Common sense,” the lieutenant repeats, cautious and jaded. “I recommend the same. Or else you will find yourself devoid of any sense at all.”

Danny laughs tightly, and even semiconscious, Billy can imagine the pinched look on the detective’s face. “I’m all about common sense,” he says. “I just happen to get saddled with idiots who don’t have any. I mean, I’m not going to sit here and taunt you when you are the one who clearly has the gun.”

Billy might take offense to that, though he suspects Danny Williams copes with stress and peril with complaints rather than charm.

“So tell me what I want to know,” the lieutenant demands.

“That’s the thing,” Danny says. “We did tell you. And we keep trying to tell you. There’s been a mix up. I mean, I’m sure there must be a mix up. I just followed this idiot into work because he said we had a shift today.”

Billy groans and finds himself blinking as the small room comes back into focus. Things are blurry and his vision is a bit gray around the edges but he manages to prop himself up slightly even as he body protests. “The message was quite clear,” he says. “Show up, at the docks, Friday morning.”

Everyone in the room stops and stares. It would be unnerving if it isn’t exactly what Billy had in mind. He just hopes that Danny can catch the drift and run with it.

There’s a moment of hesitation but as Billy’s eyes focus on the detective, he sees a glimmer of understanding and that’s all he needs.

Sighing in exasperation, Danny throws one hand in the air. “Friday?” he asks. “They said Friday?”

Billy blinks innocently. “Certainly, bright and early, just go about the basics,” he says.

Danny shakes his head, looking at the ceiling. “Unbelievable,” he says, rubbing his free hand over his face. “It’s unbelievable.”

“I don’t--”

Danny looks at him, leaning forward with a convincing look of rage on his face. “It’s Thursday!” he exclaims, waving his hand wildly. “It’s Thursday, you idiot!”

Billy allows himself a blank look. “But...I don’t...” He pauses, cocking his head. “Really?”

Danny’s expression turns apoplectic. It’s so convincing that Billy actually feels somewhat chagrined. “Yes! Yes! It’s Thursday! And here you have us, wandering through an abandoned dock, doing a job that we probably won’t even get paid for, assuming, of course, that these nice men with big guns actually decide to let us go!”

Billy frowns. “But, I was so sure.”

Danny shrugs, rolling his eyes. “Of course you were sure,” he mutters. “Because you don’t know how to look at a calendar. You know that whole common sense thing? You clearly don’t have it. At all. I’m going to die because you don’t know have common sense. And don’t know how to use a day planner. Which is probably because you don’t have common sense, you Scottish moron.”

The personal barb is a nice touch, and Billy lets his hackles flare. “Now come on,” he says. “We don’t need to get personal now, do we?”

Danny gestures wildly. “We probably don’t need to,” he agrees. “But we also don’t need to be at work today, but oh, look! Here we are!”

“Well, pardon me for trying to make sure we have jobs,” Billy says. “Have you seen the lack of prospects in this economy?”

“Oh, and you think our jobs are going to be really secure if we’re dead?” Danny asks back in accusation.

It’s an effective back and forth; Danny is an apt verbal sparring partner. Just as cross as Casey, but not so restrained. More irate than Michael and more convincingly annoyed than young Rick.

And it’s working – to an extent. Their captors are both mesmerized and perplexed, staring at their back and forth like a verbal tennis match. Billy can only hope that it’s enough to convince them not only of their stupidity but of their innocence.

Or at least buy them some time before something worse happens.

“As I see it, the only thing I’m guilty of is being proactive,” Billy says, allowing himself some indignation.

“Proactively moronic,” Danny snaps back. “I mean, come on. Friday? Friday!”

“It could be worse,” Billy offers.

Danny groans, eyes on the ceiling again. “It could be worse,” he mutters, then he looks at the captors. “Do you think it could be worse?”

The man looks ready to reply.

Danny doesn’t give him a chance. He shakes his head. “What am I talking about?” he says. “I’m talking to the man with a gun now. As if he’s somehow got more common sense in all of this.”

“Oh, good,” Billy says. “Insult the men with guns who have taken us hostage.”

“Better than showing up on the wrong day and running into them in the first place!”

“So it’s all my fault?” Billy asks, pushing his chest out a little.

Danny returns the gesture with more gusto. “Yes,” he says. “Yes, this is entirely your fault.”

Billy figures if they’re using this tact, they might as well see it through and hope for the best. Therefore, he opens his mouth with due incredulity and raises his voice. “Oh, is that so? And who got fired so that this meager job is the only thing keeping you from total destitution?”

Danny’s going to reply, but the lieutenant has heard enough. “It’s both your faults for being complete idiots!” he yells, but it’s his waving gun that silences them both. “It’s your faults equally and now you will both pay equally.”

That is not really what Billy wants to hear. He hates to think this very convincing show has been for naught, but he’s not really in a position to question it.

At least, not with someone else’s life on the line. Billy may risk himself from time to time, but he can’t, in good conscience, play such a dicey hand when someone else may take the fall.

Instead, he keeps himself still, stiffening his posture, waiting for whatever verdict may await him. He considers attacking briefly – if the man is going to execute them, Billy would prefer to at least go down fighting – but he gauges the man’s posture, the way his hand is tight on the gun but that it’s still pointed down. This man will fire – there’s enough hardness in his eyes – but he doesn’t want to.

Not yet, anyway.

For a second, Billy dares to hope. That maybe their ruse has paid off. That maybe they’ll escape this unfortunate foible with their lives.

The man is barely holding in his fumes. He’s not going to fire, but his eyes are frustrated. And Billy knows the verdict before it’s spoken.

“We’re going for a boat ride,” he says, almost spitting the words with contempt.

Danny shrugs, inclining his head. “I’m really not big on the water--”

The man glowers at him with a menacing snarl. “That’s just as well,” he continues. “Because this is the last one you’ll ever take.”

It’s an ominous prediction, no doubt meant to terrify, which the man seems to take some pleasure in. Billy has to give him credit on the delivery. Duly unnerving, and he makes his exit appropriately afterward. He turns on his heel, nodding to the other two. Without a word, they all exit and the door closes behind them, the resounding click of a lock securing their would-be fate.

Billy stares at the door and mentally curses even as he works to maintain his facade. This is certainly less than ideal as far as things go, but he’s still alive. Beaten, handcuffed, and kidnapped, but breathing. One out of four isn’t too bad.

“That’s it?” Danny asks next to him. “The last boat ride we’re going to take? That’s the best he can come up with?”

Billy shrugs. “Criminal types are not readily known for the grandiose verbiage.”

Danny snorts. “I guess they figure there’s no point in trying for people who are going to be dead soon anyway.”

“I can see that reasoning,” Billy says easily. From outside the room, something rumbles to life. The boat sputters and shimmies and within seconds, there’s a lurch as they start moving. Billy keeps talking, purposefully ignoring the change. “Although I find that playing up the theatrics is just as gratifying for myself as it is for others.”

“And is that what you were doing just now?” Danny asks, and he’s looking at Billy keenly now. “Gratifying yourself?”

Billy gives him a disappointed look. “Detective Williams, surely your obvious investigative skills left you with a better conclusion than that,” he says as he pulls experimentally on his handcuffs, running his eyes long the length of the duct they’re attached to.

Danny lifts his free hand. “Well, I had to wonder,” he says. “Since you seemed dead set on talking that man into shooting us.”

“To the contrary,” he says. “I think I may have very well saved our lives.”

“Oh, great,” Danny says. He looks around, gesturing while his handcuffs clank. “You bought us all of fifteen minutes.”

“Hardly,” Billy says, eyes scanning the room. He’s looking for weaknesses, anything that might work in their favor. “We have a good thirty minutes at least before they decide to kill us. They’ll wait until we’re at sea. Probably dumping us in open water to reduce the chances of our deaths being too quickly discovered.”

“Well that makes me feel so much better,” Danny snarks back.

“I admit, that is a less than ideal sort of fate,” Billy says, turning his gaze to the door and considering the hinges and the locking mechanism.

Next to him, Danny shrugs. “I suppose if you’re going to die, you’re going to die,” he says. “No sense worrying about the details like whether or not they’ll ever find our bodies or if we’ll just be eaten by sharks.”

“The great circle of life,” Billy says, testing the cuffs again. “It’s a far more environmentally friendly option, at any rate.”

“Of course,” Danny says. “Because that’s my biggest concern: that my death doesn’t somehow throw off the eco balance of the world.”

“That’s noble,” Billy says, looking back at Danny. “But entirely irrelevant.”

“Because suddenly you know how to break out of handcuffs and blast through doors and storm past who knows how many armed guards on a boat due for a weapons deal?” Danny asks.

Billy might admit that he has a point in some regards but Billy doesn’t really have the time to humor desperation at the moment. “No,” Billy says. “At least not all of it. I might be able to get us out of the cuffs but I’m going to need some kind of lockpick device.”

“Oh, that’s all,” Danny says. He puts his free hand to his head. “Too bad I left mine at home today.”

“Me, too,” Billy says, quite seriously. “For as practical as these uniforms seem, they lack storage.”

Danny stares at him. “I was kidding,” he says. “I don’t carry a lockpick because I’m not a criminal.”

Billy blinks. “Ah. Yes. Well, I can see your point maybe,” he says. “But still, your dire forecasts are a colorful way to pass the time but they are still entirely irrelevant.”

“You keep saying that,” Danny says with an incredulous grin. “But you know, I’m still not seeing many options.”

“For us? No, not really,” Billy agrees. “But our teams, on the other hand.”

“That assumes they know we’ve been taken,” Danny says.

“They’ll know,” Billy says with confidence, because that’s not even a doubt in his mind. “Even if they didn’t pick up on it somehow, when we miss check in, they’ll know.”

“And they’ll have to know where we are,” Danny points out.

“I can’t say there’s a lot of other options,” Billy points out. “Unless you commonly go missing on cases and turn up in random locations.”

Danny is not amused, which Billy actually finds more amusing than anything else, even given their current predicament.

“I don’t know your team well,” Billy concedes with a hint of reconciliation in his voice. The other man is clearly stressed by this, and while Billy likes to have his fun, he can appreciate that the common person is not as accustomed to peril like he is. “But I know mine. They will know where we are. And they will get us. I can promise you that.”

“Oh, you can promise me that,” Danny repeats, clearly agitated now. “Because your promises mean so much to me, seeing as they got us in this mess.”

Billy frowns. “Complications happen,” he says. “You can’t blame the mission for the unknown.”

Danny’s eyebrows go up. “Complications? You mean, getting kidnapped and beaten and locked up? That kind of complication?”

Shrugging, Billy keeps his cool. “A small hiccup.”

“Right,” Danny says. “A small hiccup that will leave us dead in the middle of the ocean.”

It’s said with a note of wry humor, but Billy can read the other man well enough to see the real tension there. This is a man with something to lose – more likely, a lot to lose. He’s a cop, not a spy. He puts his life on the line but he doesn’t throw himself into the deep end quite the way Billy is used to. Or, even if he does, he does so with knowledge of what he might give up.

Billy knows he has much less to give up. A motel room at a monthly rate and a collection of books. A guitar and a flat in London. A family he doesn’t talk to and a career he’s had to rebuild. If he dies, these things won’t miss him.

He can’t say the same for Danny Williams.

There’s a weight with that, one that Billy does not take lightly. So this time, when he talks, he looks the other man squarely in the eye and lets himself be serious. “They’ll come,” he says. “My team will come. We will survive this.”

Danny is watching him, quiet for once. For a moment, he says nothing. Then he nods. “My team will, too,” he says. “No man behind.”

Billy has to grin. The declaration is simple, but there’s still a confidence there that matters. “That’s the spirit, yeah?” he says with encouragement. “And look on the bright side.”

“Bright side?” Danny asks, more than a little skeptical.

“We’ll be right where the action is,” he says grinning.

Danny stares for a moment before he snorts, shaking his head. “Yeah,” he says. “Though between you and me, all this death and dying is not really my kind of action.”

Billy makes a tsking sound with his tongue. “The higher the stakes, the higher the payoff.”

“And the higher the likelihood of getting shot to hell,” Danny points out.

“Details,” Billy replies easily, shrugging. “Just think of the stories we’ll tell.”

It’s a pleasant sort of thing; gallows humor of a sorts. There’s something inexplicable about a death sentence that bonds strangers together. Danny can protest, Danny can complain, but he needs to talk just as much as Billy does. They’re the same in this, unaccustomed to silence, uncomfortable with the in betweens where they are not sure how to just be. For all their differences, there is solidarity in this.

Because they’re different, but they’re the same. They talk through their anxieties and they know their team will back them up.

There’s no doubt about that.

Not even a little.

NEXT