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Chaos fic: An Indirect Proof (AU, 6b/9)

October 22nd, 2012 (07:59 am)
rushed

feeling: rushed

A/N: Previous parts in the MASTER POST.



The fortitude translated into action. Rick gathered his scattered wits and got out. Billy’s maneuvering had bought them some time – apparently his maniacal driving skills had thrown off their pursuers more than a little – but they needed to act.

And fast.

Michael pulled them down in front of the car, Billy and Rick around him while Casey laid down cover fire, picking off men while Salazar’s team reorganized.

“As fun as this has been, I think it’s time to leave,” Michael said.

“No arguments here, mate,” Billy chimed in. “Which is why I kindly brought the transportation. Going by foot is environmentally conscious of us, but in circumstances such as these, I think speed is preferable.”

Michael nodded. “Agreed,” he said. He looked at the truck. “Bullet proof?”

“Seems decently armored,” Billy said. “Salazar is fond of his toys and he likes them to be well equipped.”

“Works for me,” Michael said. Then he looked to Rick. “Do you have the plates?”

For a second, Rick went numb. In all the activity, he’d forgotten about the plates – he’d forgotten about everything, really. And without the plates, everything was a loss—

Billy nodded toward the truck. “Briefcase should be in there,” he said. “It’s been tossed around a bit while we were running, but I made sure to keep a tight hand on it. I’m not letting that son of a bitch get off now, not when we’re so close.”

Billy’s tone was conversational enough, but Rick detected a hint of malice – more than a hint, really, though it was hard to tell. Billy’s upbeat personality was pretty distracting, but Rick figured it was only logical that the man might harbor more than a few resentments at the men who imprisoned him for three years.

Really, it was remarkable that Billy didn’t hold a grudge against the three teammates who had inadvertently left him behind. Or the tagalong kid who had taken his job.

The thought made Rick frown. He’d been so busy disliking Billy Collins before this mission that he’d never considered that the man might have spent the last three years disliking him.

But that didn’t seem to be the case. Billy Collins was more than the legend the CIA rumor mill purported him to be. He was Billy Collins, and if he wanted to stick it to Salazar, then Rick wouldn’t begrudge him that.

“Good,” Michael said, nodding readily. Then his brow creased. “Where did you leave Simms?”

Rick couldn’t help but blanche. “He’s back a ways,” he said. “We needed someone to lay down cover for us to get to the truck. He’s been on his own this whole time.”

“Ah, never fear,” Billy said. “Carson Simms is a tough old blighter. Lean and crotchety – a true survivor if ever I’ve met one. He’ll be fine.”

“But pissed,” Michael added. “We better head back and get him.”

“He’s back on the other side, close to the fire,” Rick said. “I mean, that’s good cover for him, but it’s going to slow us down getting through there. If the truck takes enough shots, bullet proof or not, it won’t be getting us out of here.”

“And we can’t compromise our exit,” Michael said, his frown deepening as he clearly weighed his options. Options, Rick noted to himself, that weren’t very good. They clearly weren’t going to leave Simms behind, but what could they do? They could try to lay down enough cover fire for Carson to make a run for it, but with that distance, it wouldn’t likely end well. Going back in the truck would leave them exposed for too long and risk the whole operation going belly up before they had a chance to get the hell out.

But there was one other option, and Rick came upon it with a sudden solidarity.

“I’ll go back,” he said.

Michael looked at him, clearly surprised.

Billy inclined his head.

Rick nodded with certainty. “I’ll double back. When I get to him, I’ll let him know that we’re leaving and meet you guys back at the gate.”

“That’s a hell of a long run, Martinez,” Michael said. “I thought we taught you how to survive better than that.”

“You can lay down enough cover to get me most of the way there,” Rick said. “Then, I’ll just have to be careful. When I’m in contact with Carson we can have each other’s backs the whole way out. From over there, it’s a straighter shot to the fence anyway.”

At their backs, the gunfire picked up in its intensity. Over the din, Casey’s voice came back. “I don’t mean to rush you, but if you don’t hurry up and come up with a plan, you might as well start planning our funerals instead.”

Rick grimaced and Michael looked uncertain. But Billy nodded. “Young Rick here is correct,” he said. “Only we should heed Michael’s years of experience. It is too long to go alone—“

“But—“ Rick started to protest.

Billy didn’t let him finish. “We’ll go together.”

On one level, it seemed like a good idea. Pairing off again made sense, especially now that they had a clear exit plan and ample opportunity to get out.

But, on every other level, Rick hated it. It was risky, and if this was a risk he was going to take, he could handle that. But Billy…

Adamant, Rick shook his head. “No.”

Billy blinked at him, taken aback. “No?”

“It’s too big of a risk,” Rick concluded.

Billy scoffed. “So you’re the only one who can go gallivanting off and putting your life on the line.”

“No,” Rick said. “But you’ve done enough.” Michael had entrusted him with Billy’s life, and after everything, Rick wasn’t going to let the man risk everything now. Not when they were so close. Not when Billy had already given him more than Rick could even understand in just a few short hours. This team needed Billy, and Rick wasn’t about to let that get away when they were so close to getting him out. “You should be in the truck – the first one out.”

Billy stared, clearly a bit dumbstruck.

Michael shrugged. “This is a rescue operation for you, after all,” he said. “It’d be pretty bad form to have you getting shot before we even officially get you out.”

Billy looked from Rick to Michael and back again. “I see I’ve been outvoted,” he said. “Strange new wonders; I’ve missed more than I thought.”

Rick offered him a small smile. “It won’t be any fun anyway,” he said. “Carson will just complain when I get there.”

Billy snorted. “He is rather epic in his ability to find something to gripe about.”

Michael worked his jaw. There was something off in his countenance, that look of unsettling dissatisfaction when a plan wasn’t quite what he wanted it to be. But when he looked at Rick, he didn’t waver. “We’ll cover you as long as we can,” he said. “But when you can’t hear our gunfire anymore—“

Rick nodded his understanding. “Then I’m on my own.”

Michael’s expression was almost grim, but he nodded. He’d trusted Rick with Billy’s life; now he was trusting Rick with more than that – a lot more than that. For the first time in a year, Rick wasn’t just the tagalong. He was an integral part of the team. Somehow, he’d earned his place. Somehow, all the pieces had come together and Rick still fit even when he shouldn’t at all.

Still, Michael made no further comment, lifting his gun and going back toward Casey where the firefight was picking up steam again.

Billy caught his gaze next and held it. “This is a noble thing.”

“It’s just the job,” Rick said, shrugging. “Right?”

Billy smiled, small and rueful. For a moment, Rick saw something in the other man, something deeper. Something tired and weary; something a little lost, a little broken. “Three years I tried to tell myself that,” he said. “Now, I’m finally starting to believe it again.”

And Rick was, too.

-o-

When Rick broke out across the open ground, his nerves were gone.

This could be partly attributed to the fact that he’d been nearly killed so many times today that one more time just couldn’t have much impact. It could have something to do with the fact that he trusted his team, that if they said they’d give him cover, he could trust that he had cover.

Or it could just be that this was the job he signed up for. He was sure of that now – more certain than he’d ever been. So he was going to do his job.

No matter what.

So he ran.

He kept his gun in hand, but he had no way of using it. Eyes focused, he ran headlong toward the closest cover he could find – a building halfway across the distance. Salazar’s men were still regrouping, pulling back in the other direction, the rest having apparently abandoned the raging flames. After so much back and forth, he could only assume they’d finally realized that they needed to confer and create an actual plan of attack instead of just shooting waywardly and hoping to achieve success.

This was both bad and good. Bad for the ultimate exit, but pretty good for Rick, because as he streaked across the field, the gunfire was so focused back on his teammates that they didn’t seem to be overly concerned with him.

Still, as the cover fire tapered off, he heard a sharp crack. The ground flew up in front of him, and Rick realized he was almost out of his safety zone.

Instinctively, he ducked down, refusing to slow even as the small pffts got closer to him.

When he reached the building, he pulled up hard, slamming his back against it to catch his breath. The gunfire continued for a long moment, then stopped. When it started again, it was broken off in two directions.

Rick swallowed. He glanced back the way he came and saw his team anchored down. They’d get into the truck soon, which meant Rick didn’t have time to waste.

Turning his head, he looked in the other direction. The majority of the fighting had shifted, away from Rick’s original location by the office and closer to the stronghold in Billy’s prison. At first, this seemed odd. Sure, they’d want to focus their efforts, but what about Carson?

Rick’s stomach turned. Unless they’d already got Carson, which would explain why it was so quiet. If Carson had been taken, or killed…

Rick didn’t entertain the thought. He refused it.

Instead, he sucked in a breath and let it out through his nose. Determined, he shifted his way to the far wall. Poking his head out, he had an unobstructed view.

A quiet view.

The fighting still raged behind him, measured bursts of gunplay, but it was quiet on this side. That didn’t mean Rick was in the clear, but it also meant that he had no reason to just go. Because as good as the quiet might be for him, Rick hated to think what it might mean for Simms.

Straining, he narrowed his eyes in on the place he’d last left Simms. There was no movement. The bullet-scarred building was still standing, dim and silent.

And the choice was made for him. He had no cover, and he could conduct a sweep but that would just be wasting time. If there were a gunman in the area it wouldn’t matter what Rick checked out. All that mattered was Simms and getting his team in and out in one piece.

Decision made, Rick set out again, pumping his legs frantically as he crossed the distance. He heard the ground under his feet, the grass and dirt flinging up from his shoes as he pressed himself harder than before. His chest was burning, his eyes blurred when he finally closed in. With one last burst of energy, he rounded the corner and ducked to safety—

Only to be greeted by the barrel of a gun.

Rick gasped, hands going up, eyes wide.

Then the gun dropped and someone swore. “What the hell, kid?”

Rick blinked, eyes moving from the gun to the man holding it. “Carson?”

Simms’ face was dour. “Gee, nice to know that you still remember me since you and Collins ditched my ass.”

“We stole a car to get to Michael and Casey,” Rick reported. “It took a while.”

Carson snorted. “I noticed.”

Rick straightened, trying to calm his nerves. “What are you doing here?”

Because Simms was unhurt. He still had his gun and presumably still had ammunition. And yet, there he was. Just standing there.

Carson’s jaw worked. “When you and Collins made your run, you attracted a lot of attention,” he said. “Drew all the fire. With all that going on, people sort of forgot about me.”

At this, Rick frowned. That made sense, for the most part, but for one thing: “So you thought you’d just hang out?”

Carson flinched, just a little, but his eyes hardened. “I’m one guy with limited ammo,” he said. “You had a whole frickin’ army on your asses. What did you want me to do? Get myself killed?”

Rick considered that. “No…”

“I was backup,” Carson continued, a little harshly. “But there was no opening…”

With his poor position, Rick could only accede that it made a certain kind of sense. Carson hadn’t known their plans; he hadn’t known anything. Making himself a moving target when he had the element of surprise would have been nothing short of stupid.

Which was probably what seemed weird to Rick. On this mission, the ODS had a penchant for stupid, which seemed to be synonymous with noble. Someone had to be the voice of reason.

Rick nodded. “Okay,” he said. “Well, the others are going to make their way in the truck to the exit. We need to work our way over there so we can get out.”

Carson nodded, face twisted tightly. “And we still have the plates?”

“Yeah,” Rick said. “We have everything we need to make sure the case against Salazar is rock solid.”

For a moment, Carson’s expression was inscrutable. There was something strangely blank on his features before his brow furrowed. He took a breath and shook his head. “It’s not enough, man,” he said.

That was a reply Rick hadn’t expected. “What do you mean?”

Simms swallowed hard and shook his head again, running a hand through his hair. “The plates aren’t enough,” he said. “We need his sales history. We need bank accounts and buyers—“

It wasn’t that there was no logic in that. It wasn’t even that those were good ideas. It was just that it was coming out of nowhere.

This was the plan they’d made. The one they’d agreed on. Get the plates. Put out Salazar’s description at all the checkpoints. Make the arrests, secure their way out of here. Get Billy, get Salazar, go home.

End of story.

And now Simms wanted more.

So much for the voice of reason.

Rick shook his head. “But we don’t have time—“

But Carson was pulling away, backing up just a little. “It’ll just take a second,” he said.

“You don’t even know where to look!” Rick hissed.

“The main house,” Carson said. “I know Salazar. He keeps his records separate and close at all times.”

“But that’s crazy!” Rick said, louder now. “Going back in there now would be stupid!”

“No, man, best time to do it,” Simms said. “Chaos out here like it is? Salazar’s a no good weasel. He’ll be cutting his losses, packing up to leave—“

“So he’ll have the papers with him tomorrow—“

Simms shook his head. “You go on and go,” he said. “I’ll catch up with you guys.”

Rick stared, at a loss. Simms wanted to go back. More than that, he wanted to go to the main house. And for what? Papers that may or may not be there? And at what risk? And how did he expect to survive?

It wasn’t possible – and Rick couldn’t let it happen.

Reaching out, he snagged Carson’s shirt. “Orders are to get out,” Rick said. “We have to go.”

Carson met Rick’s gaze, and their eyes locked for a long moment. There was sadness, regret. Guilt.

Carson shook his head again. “Sorry, kid,” he said. “I got to do this.”

Numb, Rick was too shocked to stop him. The older man pulled away, starting to run off.

As the numbness faded, Rick realized what he would have to do. If Simms wouldn’t come willingly, Rick would drag him out against his will. If it saved the man’s life, it would be worth it. Simms would thank him. Michael wouldn’t have it any other way.

But as he made his move, the burning building roared, the flames rising hire. The air crackled and something spark, and as Rick turned to see, an explosion rocked the area, sending him crashing back to the building. His head collided with something and something sharp clipped his arm before everything went dark.

-o-

Something was droning.

Low and persistent, it echoed in his ears, ringing and buzzing and—

Rick groaned.

The droning jackknifed in his brain, building slowly but steadily until he just wanted to go back to sleep. To forget this day, with its droning and its missions and—

Mission.

Rick jolted, cutting through the fog. His eyes popped open and he blinked, staring up at the too-blue sky above. Wafts of black smoke filtered by, creating a haze, and Rick swallowed.

And sound came back.

The droning became acute, and Rick realized there was yelling and flame and—

He needed to move. Because there was yelling and flame and where the hell was—

Carson.

Rick sat up, and the world tilted, his stomach churning violently for a moment. Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried to breathe, letting the oxygen fill his lungs before he let it out, the pressure burning.

Eyes open, he looked back, craning his neck. The building Michael and Casey had set on fire was a charred mess, the roof caved in and walls collapsed. The explosion had probably been from whatever fuel they’d had stored there, and the smoldering wreck was well beyond salvaging.

That didn’t matter, though.

He had to squint, vision still skewed from the explosion, but he could see the guards scrambling. It wasn’t clear how much time had passed, but since the men were still off kilter, Rick could hope that he hadn’t been out too long.

But long enough.

The truck backed out jerkily, eliciting fresh gunfire as it went roughly into drive, plowing forward toward the exit.

That was Rick’s cue – and then some. He was supposed to meet them on the way out, Carson in tow.

Carson.

Rick turned, looking back to where he’d last seen the older operative. At first, with the smoke and the ringing in his ears, he couldn’t make out much. But then, he noticed movement. Far up ahead, someone was running.

Tall, lanky, gray hair.

Carson Simms was running like his life depending on it.

Which was sort of funny, because Carson Simms had been lackadaisical, indifferent, and insufferably lazy most of the time Rick had known him. He barely showed up for work on time and took lunches that sometimes lasted for hours.

And more so, he was running headlong in a direction that was sure to get him killed.

Salazar’s compound was far enough away to be safe from the blaze, but even from a distance, Rick could easily see that it was decadent and built on the spoils of a criminal life. Carson had no chance of getting in there. Even if he did, he wouldn’t know where to look for whatever elusive evidence he thought they so desperately needed.

And really, even if he did find it, what made him think he would get out without being caught? Or that he would even get out alive, for that matter?

Carson Simms was running to get himself killed, and Rick wasn’t quite sure why but he wasn’t about to sit around and let one of his teammates throw himself into harm’s way. They were all leaving this place together. Michael and Casey and Rick and Carson and Billy.

End of story.

Gritting his teeth, Rick got to his feet. He wavered for a moment, but fought back the vertigo. Forcing out an even breath through his nose, he garnered his strength and started to follow.

-o-

Rick was faster than Carson, but he found that the blast had rattled him more than he’d thought. He stumbled intermittently, once having to stop and put his hands on his knees to get his bearings before he could continue his pursuit. As it was, he gained ground on the other man, close enough to call out his name, but Simms showed no sign of hearing him.

At the very least, Carson showed no sign of stopping. Instead, he kept running, snaking around to the side of the house and disappearing from view.

Rick picked up his pace, and by the time he got to the side his ribs ached and his entire chest felt like it might explode. His vision was hazy at the edges, but it didn’t take much critical thinking to deduce that Carson had gone inside. The door kicked off its hinges was evidence enough.

With a few more deep breaths, Rick glanced down the length of the house, finding it eerily abandoned. This far away the fire was still audible but muted, and the smoke was only a little hazy in the Panama sun.

Pursing his lips, Rick eyed the door with trepidation. This was sort of like suicide and he knew it. Going in would be the stupidest thing he could do, especially when he knew that Michael, Casey and Billy were already on their way out. Even if he managed to get out of the house, he might not have any exit left. He couldn’t expect his teammates to wait, not when getting Billy out was such a priority.

But Simms was in there. And Rick wasn’t going to leave a man behind.

The decision cemented, he pulled his gun and took a breath. With all the strength he had left, he went inside.

-o-

Rick had half-expected to be greeted by gunfire and confrontation.

So it was ironic that the stillness was actually far more disconcerting.

He found that the door had let him inside of what appeared to be a mudroom. It opened into a pantry, still filled with a wide range of items including an odd selection of Little Debbie snacks. The large pantry had a swinging door, which Rick approached cautiously, peeking out into a grandiose kitchen.

It was a bright room, filled with light from generous windows. The sunlight glinted off stainless steel appliances, making flecks in the granite sparkle. Everything was immaculate, almost untouched.

And empty.

Inside, Rick couldn’t even hear the fire or the gunfire. It was a different world; secluded.

Which was all wrong. He got that this was Salazar’s private residence. Opulence and comfort were probably givens. But outside, his compound was burning and badly compromised. Where was the frantic packing? The fleeing?

Or had they already left?

Rick considered that, and wondered if maybe they’d get that lucky.

There was only one way to find out.

Carefully, Rick pushed open the doors and stepped out, gun raised. He went slowly, each step calculated. His heart felt too loud, and he swallowed convulsively, fingers sweaty on the gun as he moved through the kitchen and into the oversized dining room.

The room was decked out with a crystal chandelier, hanging over an expansive cherry table, adorned with fresh flowers. Rick could still smell their scent as he pressed through. The next room was even more decadently furnished, an exquisite formal dining room, with comfortable looking furniture and large vases. Some of the art looked familiar on the walls, but Rick didn’t have time to figure out if they were the real thing or not.

Instead, he kept himself alert, listening attentively for any sign of movement.

But there was nothing. Outside he could see the smoke, the fading flames, even cars in the distance, but here it was quiet and unoccupied. Its own distinct world.

Rick found that he was trembling as he made his way through, noting with some concern that he would have no cover if someone did decided to pop up. He was in the open, and though the furniture was large, it wouldn’t do much to stop a trail of bullets.

The living room was rounded off with a grand staircase, curving along the far wall. He could see a tiled entryway beyond that, with more rooms presumably on the other side. But with no movement and no sound, Rick had no idea where to go. Carson was in here somewhere, but there was no sign of him – no sign of anyone.

On the far side now, Rick looked up the staircase, but saw nothing. He was inching his way by the front door when something finally broke the silence.

More like shattered it.

It was a crashing sound, too loud to be mistaken and too sudden to be overlooked. Rick was on alert, eyes wide as he tried to place it. He didn’t have to work hard, not when it was followed up by the sound of a gunshot, rocking the house from upstairs.

Just like that, Rick’s caution was a thing of the past. Gun raised, he ran, taking the stairs two at a time. As he bounded, the increasing sounds of a struggle spurred him onward, especially when he heard Simms’ voice.

The words were indiscriminate, but the anger, the rage, the panic was clear. Carson was in trouble—

Rick charged, following the noise. There was a door ajar at the end of the hall and Rick ran, pushing it open and barging in with his gun up, breath tight in his chest, ready for anything.

Anything except what he saw.

Because he found Carson alright, and he was angry and enraged and panicked. But he was also still holding a gun, fingers fisted in Salazar’s shirt, the barrel pressed against the man’s head.

Salazar was simpering, eyes wide with terror as he shook his head, tears streaking down his face.

For a second, Rick didn’t know what to do. He stood, frozen, gun up, and staring. Salazar looked almost grateful for the intrusion, and when Simms looked up at him, his face was hardened and twisted.

Then, he slackened, his grip easing just slightly on Salazar’s shirt. “Rick,” he said, almost breathless. “Didn’t expect you, kid.”

That much was an understatement. Simms looked like he’d been about two seconds from killing Salazar – so there must have been a reason. Maybe the scuffle had been him getting the upper hand in a fight Salazar had started. Maybe the shot had been from Salazar and Rick couldn’t see the gun.

There were a lot of maybes.

And not a lot of facts – except for the fact that he’d just walked into see one of his teammates about to murder an unarmed man. Criminal or not, that wasn’t okay.

Gun still up, Rick took a tentative step closer. “Everything okay?”

“Sure,” Carson said, quickly repositioning his stance but keeping himself steady, gun still primed and ready. “I caught this son of a bitch sneaking around trying to make his getaway. And I thought, what the hell? Why not just take him into custody now and spare ourselves the risk of a manhunt tomorrow?”

There was logic to that. There was. None of them would object to bringing in Salazar now. In fact, in most circumstances, they’d consider it a real victory. An unprecedented boon of good luck.

But this didn’t look like an arrest. Not even an ODS-style arrest. Salazar had his hands up, and he looked terrified – more than that, he looked unarmed, and Carson’s gun was still pressed up against his forehead while blood dribble from his nose, a dark welt forming on his tanned cheek..

“Okay,” Rick said, his nerves keeping him on edge because Carson didn’t ease up, not even a little. “So maybe we should tie him up and get him out?”

Carson blinked, as if the thought hadn’t even occurred to him. “Yeah,” he said. “Of course. I was just trying to get him to tell us where he keeps his personal escape plan. We’re going to need an exit.”

That was true. The house seemed abandoned, but that didn’t mean much. And outside the window on the second floor, Rick could see over the compound and saw the scrambling men, some moving back toward the house. They wouldn’t be safe here for long.

But something was wrong. Rick couldn’t quite place it, but something was very, very wrong. Something in Simms’ demeanor, something in Salazar’s expression. Carson didn’t relax; Salazar didn’t look like a threat.

“Why don’t you head over to the master bedroom,” Simms suggested next.

Rick stiffened, inclining his head. “Why?”

“He’s got to have keys somewhere,” Carson said, sighing with exasperation. “To a car, a helicopter. Anything. You can find them and come back to get us.”

Rick shifted, gauging the situation, trying to figure it out. An exit strategy was a good idea, a necessary one even. Michael and Casey and Billy would probably be in the clear now, and getting across the grounds with the shifted dynamic of the men outside would be more than a little difficult.

But Simms was still standing, eyes cold and knowing and the gun pressed ominously against Salazar’s head. This was the man who had taken Billy, who had held him for three years. Revenge was a powerful, important thing, but this was more than that. This had started before that, before the incident in the yard. Back in the plane, all the conversations of the last year. About survival and regret and the things you did to save yourself.

Simms didn’t risk his life carelessly. He didn’t risk his life for anyone but himself.

He could be here for Billy, but…

There was still something off, something not quite right, something—

Then Salazar sucked in a breath. “You’ll never get away.”

Simms’ grip tightened and he rammed the gun against him harder. “Shut up,” he said, almost spitting the words with utter vehemence. “You stinkin’ weasel, just shut the hell up.”

Salazar rocked, visibly wincing, and Rick felt himself tense. If Simms pulled the trigger, he wouldn’t be able to stop him. And he wouldn’t know how to salvage it if he did.

“Hey,” Rick said, trying to sound disarming. “We want him alive.”

“Why?” Carson asked, eyes narrowed on Salazar. “This bastard isn’t worth anything.”

Rick hedged, starting to feel desperate. “We still have a job.”

Simms looked at him, eyes dark. “Have you seen the things he’s done, kid? Remember finding Billy, locked up and chained? And you want to save him?”

“It’s not about saving him,” Rick said, stepping closer, gun still up, but keeping himself still. Simms was on the precipice of something, something he couldn’t identify, but something he suddenly realized he had to be very careful of. There was a reason Simms had run all the way back here; there was a reason that Simms had Salazar at gunpoint. There was a reason he wanted the man dead.

Rick didn’t know why yet, but he was beginning to sense that there was more to this than he thought. So much more.

Then Salazar snorted. “Not all operatives are as easily swayed as you, Mr. Simms,” he said, smirking even as blood continued to flow from his nose.

Mr. Simms. Salazar knew Simms.

That could be nothing. It could be from the case they’d worked three years ago in North Africa. Maybe Billy had said something during his incarceration. Maybe Salazar had extracted that information from Simms before Billy came in.

But there was familiarity in it. Not just the word, but the tone. The look.

Everything.

Salazar knew Simms.

And Simms knew Salazar.

Not just as a name in a file, a mark to arrest, but knew him.

Suddenly, there were more questions, too many questions. Rick’s heart skipped a beat and he had to swallow back his fear. He kept his gun steady, easing in another step closer.

Carson’s face twisted, and he bared down on his captive, shaking him violently, the barrel of the gun scraping across Salazar’s forehead.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Rick said. “Let’s just take it easy—“

His suggestion fell on deaf ears and before he could act, Simms had raked the gun across Salazar’s face, opening up a fresh cut and sending the man sprawling to the floor, limp and unmoving. He moved in, aiming the gun straight at the man.

Rick surged forward, raising his own gun, feeling his heart thunder as he fixed it on his teammate. “Simms, don’t,” he said.

Carson stopped, eyes going to Rick as he stilled.

Rick tried not to flinch, even as he shook his head. “We’ve got him,” he said, slow and steady. “We can take him into custody, and it’ll be okay.”

Simms snorted, a wry, cynical look in his eyes. “Nothing will be okay,” he said. “Nothing will ever be okay until this son of a bitch is rotting in a grave.”

With that, Simms tightened his grip on the gun.

Rick’s head went light. “Come on, you can’t do this,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but you can’t kill him.”

“Oh, but I can,” Simms said.

“No,” Rick said. “Not while I’m here.”

At that, Carson cocked his head, looking at Rick curiously. “Are you going to stop me?”

The question was plain and direct – and utterly to the point. Was Rick going to stop him? Could he stop him? Charging him would be a risk – the gun might fire anyway. But shooting him…

Simms was his teammate. He was on the ODS. Rick couldn’t kill him…

But Simms was going to kill an unarmed man. Even if there had been provocation, this was murder. This was wrong.

He took a breath, nodding as resolutely as he could. “I have no choice.”

For a moment, Simms didn’t move. But then his face hardened and he lifted the gun off of Salazar.

And aimed it right at Rick. “Then neither do I.”

-o-

Everything stopped.

This mission had been up and down, nothing short of a roller coaster. Hell, this entire year had been an unpredictable mess, and he’d be a liar if he said that he hadn’t wondered if his teammates were trying to kill him more than once.

But they hadn’t been trying to kill him. They’d been trying to protect him in their own, messed up way. Because Rick was the new guy, and it wasn’t that they didn’t trust the new guy, it was that they didn’t trust themselves with the new guy because Billy Collins had been missing and presumed dead and they didn’t want that to happen again.

Which was fine, because Rick didn’t want it to happen either, so really, that worked out except for the fact that there Rick was, being held at gunpoint—

By Carson Simms.

Carson Simms. Who sat in the desk across from Rick, who drank too much, who always showed up late, who slept through off days.

Simms. Who could talk his way out of everything, who said you always saved yourself.

Simms. Who had come back here, against orders, against logic. Who Salazar had known.

Rick sucked a breath. “Why did you come back here?”

Simms shook his head, laughing. “We’re not going to talk this through, kid,” he said, a hysterical edge to his voice. “I know what you’re doing, and there’s no point. Two people in this room can walk out of here, and it should be me and you.”

“Right,” Rick said, trying not to tremble, not even as his head went lighter. “So put the gun down—“

Simms jerked the gun up, jabbing it toward Rick, face twisted. “You put it down,” he seethed. “This has nothing to do with you, you can put it away and walk out—“

“So you can kill him?” Rick asked.

“He’s scum,” Simms said emphatically. “You have no idea—“

“Then tell me,” Rick said, not letting his own gun waver. Everything felt tremulous, but he had to keep it together. He couldn’t lose it, not now. “Tell me what this is all about.”

Carson’s face crumpled for a moment, but then he shook his head. His eyes were bright, almost glistening. “This isn’t what you think.”

Rick felt his heart stutter and he had to force himself to breathe.

And he nearly jumped out of his skin when a voice came from behind:

“Then tell me, mate, what is it about?”

The Scottish accent was unmistakable, and Rick turned, blinking in shock at Billy, who was standing in the doorway.

On the one hand, Rick was relieved to see him. Rick didn’t know what he was doing; didn’t know what he was going to do. He just knew he had a gun on his teammate and he couldn’t see a way out of this that didn’t end horribly.

On the other hand, Rick was angry. Because he’d told Billy to stay with Michael and Casey; he’d made the choice to come alone because he was a part of this team, and Billy’s only role in this mission was to be rescued, and everyone seemed to be aware of that except Billy.

On both hands, though, Rick was surprised. Even though, in retrospect, he probably shouldn’t have been. No one in the ODS followed orders, and if anyone exemplified the soul of the ODS, it was most certainly Billy Collins.

Still.

“What are you doing here?” Rick hissed.

Billy glanced at him, offering him a disarming smile. “What can I say? I missed your company. I’d forgotten what sour pusses Michael and Casey can be.”

It was funny, Rick supposed, but really, entirely not the point. “But haven’t you guys gotten out?” he asked. “Wasn’t that the plan?”

“The plan was for you to follow us,” Billy reminded him. “And then you went and got yourself blown up—“

“I was fine,” Rick shot back.

“But then you went and got yourself held at gunpoint—“

“Which is why you shouldn’t be anywhere near here,” Rick said, voice rising in frustration.

“Neither of you should be here!” Carson yelled, interrupting them with vigor.

Rick turned back. “And neither should you!” he exclaimed, and his head was staring to hurt. A lot.

“Look,” Billy said, stepping closer now, arms out in front of him. He had a gun, Rick could see, but it was tucked into his pants. “We decided this; we all leave. Together. Michael and Casey are holed up outside, trying to fend off the incoming guards as best they can, but we don’t have long. If we’re going to get out of here—“

“—we need to leave,” Rick finished for him. He looked back at Carson, feeling his hope rise.

And Carson’s face showed indecision. There was a part of him that wanted to walk away – a large part of him. The part that Rick knew, the part that had joked with him over the last year, who had shown him a thing or two about being a spy. Carson Simms was a good spy; he was a good person. He wasn’t perfect, but no one was, and Carson Simms had saved Rick’s life, and that counted for something.

But Carson Simms was also human. Far too human. He was selfish and lazy and when his back was against the proverbial wall, he chose himself.

He chose himself.

Over his job, over his teammates. Over Rick. Even over Billy Collins.

Carson shook his head, the gun steadying in his hands. “We can leave,” he said. “Just not together. You have to let me finish this.”

“Finish what!” Rick demanded, his patience almost gone now.

Billy moved closer, right next to Rick now. His eyes were on Carson, unyielding. “Finish what you started three years ago in North Africa,” he said.

Rick’s stomach flipped, his body going numb. He looked at Billy, gaping.

But Billy didn’t look back. Kept his gaze steady. “That’s what this is about, isn’t it?”

Carson’s jaw worked, but he didn’t deny it.

“I reckon I always suspected,” Billy admitted. “I had a lot of time to think about how things went down, but I never let myself actually believe it.”

Rick shook his head, fumbling to keep up. Because his head hurt and his lungs were tight and too much had happened and it was hard to think down the barrel of a gun and it was too much. “Believe what?”

Carson flinched, his expression breaking just a little. The anger was laden with regret now. Pain and hurt and sorrow. The gun didn’t move, and Simms was so stiff he looked like he might break.

Billy continued, voice soft but steady. “That Salazar didn’t just get lucky three years ago. He had someone on the inside.”

Rick’s chest felt inexplicably tight again, not from the smoke or the force of the blast. The tension in the room was overwhelming, pulling them all taut; if one of them gave an inch, they’d all fall apart. “The CIA?” he asked, a little dumbly.

Simms’ face was stony now, and Rick’s brain worked overtime. He knew what Billy was suggesting, he knew – hell, he’d been starting to wonder himself, but knowing it didn’t mean he understood it and he didn’t know if he wanted to understand.

If he wanted to believe.

If he wanted to doubt.

“No,” Billy said, because where Rick was scrambling to make sense of it, Billy had already made his peace. “The ODS.” He paused, letting it sink in.

Simms was visibly trembling now, the gun still raised even as it wavered precariously.

Billy pressed on, and Rick felt his stomach bottom out as the horrifying realization settled over him oppressively. But Billy wasn’t shocked. He wasn’t angry or enraged or upset. He was just sure, certain; resigned: “Isn’t that right, Carson?”

NEXT

Comments

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: October 22nd, 2012 05:55 pm (UTC)
Spies

Yay on rescuing Billy :)

And impressive action scenes. They really grabbed me. BAMF team is definitely the best and the way you have them interacting - despite the three year break - is just amazing. Instant team work is just awesome.

But oh Carson, what have you done, or what are you about to do.

Great twist in the plot.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 26th, 2012 03:06 am (UTC)
billy considers

I'm just always relieved my action scenes make sense! I feel like I never know what I'm talking about.

And I'm glad you like the twist :)

Thanks!

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2012 08:28 pm (UTC)
It just gets better and better

I love this revelatory moment. I heard the Law and Order tones when I read Billy revealing Carson's betrayal and yet HIS tone was one of disappointment and regret and compassion which isn't a surprise really given it's Billy.

Fave parts:

Billy’s tone was conversational enough, but Rick detected a hint of malice – more than a hint, really, though it was hard to tell. Billy’s upbeat personality was pretty distracting, but Rick figured it was only logical that the man might harbor more than a few resentments at the men who imprisoned him for three years.

Really, it was remarkable that Billy didn’t hold a grudge against the three teammates who had inadvertently left him behind. Or the tagalong kid who had taken his job.

The thought made Rick frown. He’d been so busy disliking Billy Collins before this mission that he’d never considered that the man might have spent the last three years disliking him.

But that didn’t seem to be the case. Billy Collins was more than the legend the CIA rumor mill purported him to be. He was Billy Collins, and if he wanted to stick it to Salazar, then Rick wouldn’t begrudge him that.

--SO speaks of Billy's noble character. You know how much I love that noble character of his.


Rick grimaced and Michael looked uncertain. But Billy nodded. “Young Rick here is correct,” he said. “Only we should heed Michael’s years of experience. It is too long to go alone—“

“But—“ Rick started to protest.

Billy didn’t let him finish. “We’ll go together.”

On one level, it seemed like a good idea. Pairing off again made sense, especially now that they had a clear exit plan and ample opportunity to get out.

But, on every other level, Rick hated it. It was risky, and if this was a risk he was going to take, he could handle that. But Billy…

Adamant, Rick shook his head. “No.”

Billy blinked at him, taken aback. “No?”

“It’s too big of a risk,” Rick concluded.

Billy scoffed. “So you’re the only one who can go gallivanting off and putting your life on the line.”

“No,” Rick said. “But you’ve done enough.” Michael had entrusted him with Billy’s life, and after everything, Rick wasn’t going to let the man risk everything now. Not when they were so close. Not when Billy had already given him more than Rick could even understand in just a few short hours. This team needed Billy, and Rick wasn’t about to let that get away when they were so close to getting him out. “You should be in the truck – the first one out.”

Billy stared, clearly a bit dumbstruck.

Michael shrugged. “This is a rescue operation for you, after all,” he said. “It’d be pretty bad form to have you getting shot before we even officially get you out.”

Billy looked from Rick to Michael and back again. “I see I’ve been outvoted,” he said. “Strange new wonders; I’ve missed more than I thought.”

-- Of course I LOVED Billy's insistence that he help, there goes noble Billy again, but I also love Rick's argument and determination to spare him.


Billy caught his gaze next and held it. “This is a noble thing.”

“It’s just the job,” Rick said, shrugging. “Right?”

Billy smiled, small and rueful. For a moment, Rick saw something in the other man, something deeper. Something tired and weary; something a little lost, a little broken. “Three years I tried to tell myself that,” he said. “Now, I’m finally starting to believe it again.”

And Rick was, too.

--I LOVED that Billy's belief was restored by Rick's behavior. You portray such a wonderful brotherly connection here.


“I reckon I always suspected,” Billy admitted. “I had a lot of time to think about how things went down, but I never let myself actually believe it.”

--Billy's disappointment is SO CRUSHING here!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 26th, 2012 03:07 am (UTC)
Re: It just gets better and better
billy guitar

I like doing dark and realistic things sometimes, but having Billy be so Billy even after three years of captivity was a whole lot of fun. Not that I'm going to let him off the hook with angst in the coming chapters or anything...

Thanks!

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