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Chaos fic: Lost and Found (1/4)

December 6th, 2012 (06:58 am)
working

feeling: working

Title: Lost and Found

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: I wrote this fic a long time ago, but finally managed to get postfallen to beta it for me. I've never been sure how much I like this fic, but it seems silly not to post it. You’ve been warned. Also, there is torture here. Lots of it. Again, you’ve been warned. I’ve got this broken into about four parts mostly just to make posting easier for me. I’ll post regularly Thursdays and Mondays until it’s up in about two weeks :)

Summary: Rick and Billy get lost. And then find each other all over again.

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE
PART FOUR



-o-

Rick is almost beyond panting when he gets there. His chest aches and he can barely feel his legs. Michael catches him by his arm as he staggers through the doorway, and he blinks up at him, almost too surprised to know what to say.

He’s been running so long, working so hard, with his eye on this moment. Now that it’s here, he’s almost too exhausted to realize it.

Still, he takes a gulping breath, trying to clear the fog in his head. Everything hurts, and his consciousness flickers.

But Michael’s hand is steady, his voice demanding. There’s a note of intensity underlining the words, almost girded by what Rick might call panic. “Martinez, where’s Collins?”

Rick swallows hard and remembers. It’s a simple question and it has a simple answer, but there’s no easy way to say it nonetheless.

Breathing ragged, Rick fixes his eyes on Michael so he understands. “I lost him,” he says, as his legs give out, the last of his energy dissipating. Michael’s expression is unwavering and Rick tries to explain what he doesn’t know how to grasp. “I tried, but couldn’t get him back. I lost him.”

The words resonate with painful veracity as the darkness finally claims him and he collapses in Michael’s arms.

-o-

“I found it,” Rick says.

It’s Monday morning at the office, and he’s been here since six, double checking his facts and following up with his contacts.

Casey is at his desk, looking bored with the day already. Michael has put on his glasses to peruse the paper while Billy seems to be scrambling to drink a cup of coffee and sift through his paperwork.

They all look at him, but none of them stop what they’re doing.

Rick wets his lips, swallowing as he buoys his courage. He’s worked for the CIA for months now, but he still feels like the new guy. Probably because they all still treat him like the new guy. He’s played some critical roles, but he’s still looking for that first mission to call his own.

And he’s found it.

“I found a lead on the drug leak coming out of southern Africa,” he says, trying not to sound too proud and mostly failing.

Casey stares at him. Billy tilts his head. Michael lifts his eyebrows. “You mean the leak that the CIA has been trying and failing to track for nearly six months?”

Rick nods with small, rapid movements.

Casey snorts. “You mean you managed to do what agencies around the world have tried and failed to do?”

“On a Monday morning, no less?” Billy adds with due skepticism.

Rick girds himself with another nod.

“That’s one hell of a way to start the week, Martinez,” Michael says, not quite skeptical but certainly with reservations. “Can you prove it?”

Rick’s heart skips a beat and he pulls his files together. “I think I can.”

-o-

It’s nearly an hour later. Rick has gone over his intel. He’s explained his tracking process. He’s answered questions and gone over satellite photos and shown how all of his facts are cross- referenced and backed up.

When he’s done his team is sitting at the table, apparently deep in thought. Casey looks like he sort of wants to kill Rick, but that’s really not so unusual, and Billy chews on his lip while he considers it all.

Michael taps his pen on the table, eyes narrowed as he looks over the file. “Well,” he says finally, after what seems like an eternity. “I think you did.”

Rick’s face breaks into a smile that he doesn’t even try to contain.

-o-

Getting the green light on the mission is surprisingly easy. The burden of proof is on the ODS, of course, but the intel is convincing and it’s not hard to see that Higgins wants this as a feather in his cap.

“So, Operative Martinez,” Higgins says from behind his desk. “Now that you’ve got me convinced that we have a location on the most notorious drug cartel in southern African, tell me just how you intend on shutting it down.”

Rick’s heart flutters. He’s been on missions and he’s improvised on missions, but this is the first time he’s been given the go ahead. Michael has watched him every step of the planning process, of course, and Billy and Casey are never far with helpful and not-so-helpful suggestions.

It’s a good plan.

Still, as he wets his lips and begins, Rick’s still nervous. But as the words come out, confident and sure, he feels like he’s finally found himself where he’s supposed to be.

-o-

The mission is actually pretty simple.

“No amount of subterfuge will get us in on this short of a time frame,” Rick explains, handing each of his teammates mission folders. They’re still hot, freshly copied and bound. “The only way in is bribery, plain and simple.”

Michael nods. “We buy off one of the guards and use his credentials to get us inside.”

“They’ll be on to us quickly,” Casey warns.

“And whoever we pay off will be essentially signing their own death warrant,” Billy adds.

“We know,” Rick says. “Which is why we’ll be offering full protection and immunity for whoever we manage to turn.”

“It’s not exactly comforting to think of a terrorist getting a free ride into the United States,” Casey grumbles.

“It’s a bit more comforting when you think about shutting down the heart of the major drug center in southern Africa,” Billy counters.

“It’s all in the compromises,” Michael agrees. “And really, that’s the least of our problems.”

“Right,” Rick says. “The problem will really start once we get inside the compound.”

“And I assume you have a plan?” Casey says, looking at him blandly.

“We’ll keep it simple,” Rick says. “We can’t take down the entire operation in one sting, so we’re not going to try.”

“But we will take out the heart,” Michael continues for him.

Rick nods. “All we need is a list of the client contacts,” he explains. “If we know who they work with, then we can compromise their enterprise.”

“And the giant falls all of its own accord,” Billy concludes with a smile. He nods readily. “The power of capitalism. I like it.”

“It’s still going to be a tough mission,” Casey reminds them all.

Rick doesn’t disagree. He shrugs, and asks, “Since when have our missions been anything but?”

-o-

On the flight over, Rick is nervous. He’s packed and he’s prepared but he can’t stop himself from going over the details.

Next to him, Billy laughs. “You really are worried about this one, aren’t you?” he asks.

Rick jumps slightly and looks up, trying to hide his obvious uncertainty. “It’s just--I’ve never planned a mission before.”

Billy nods understandingly. “The first one is always the hardest,” he says. Then he leans closer, lowering his voice. “And some words to the wise: it’ll never go just as you plan it.”

Rick nods back and swallows. “So then how do you deal with it?”

Shrugging, Billy sits back a little. “You do the best you can,” he says. “You plan and you prep and you keep track of all your variables. Don’t lose sight of the big picture and know how to compromise the details, and things usually turn out okay.”

Rick lets the words settle and tries to believe it. Then he blinks at Billy again. “Usually?”

“Ah,” Billy says, pushing Rick’s shoulder gently. “On the way back, ask me about my first mission and you’ll see what I mean.”

Somehow, this is encouraging and terrifying all at once.

-o-

On the ground in Africa, they have to work quickly. They’ve already identified several targets to buy out, but approaching them is a tentative thing. Offering the wrong man a bribe could compromise the entire operation before it even begins. It’s a careful balance of making headway while still hedging bets.

They’ve split up the names, and after a few failed contacts, Rick finds himself with Billy, meeting a middle aged security guard with high level clearance and a pregnant wife.

“This place – it is no life for her or my child,” he says.

“Generally a life of crime and evil does put a hinder on one’s family time,” Billy agrees.

The man frowns.

Rick hurries to continue. “We can help you with that, though,” he says.

The man looks cautious but he doesn’t move away, a hint of eager possibility in his eyes. “What did you have in mind?”

And Rick knows they’ve found their man.

-o-

Still, Rick also finds a problem.

Back at their motel, Rick paces the floor. Billy is in a chair; Casey lounges on a bed. Michael is half perched on the dresser, arms crossed as he watches Rick walk.

Rick shakes his head. “It’s too risky,” he says.

“It was always risky,” Michael reminds him.

Rick keeps going. “The original plan called for three people on the inside,” he says. “One to get the information, two to keep watch.”

“Two can be a rather superfluous number,” Billy says. “If we get tagged while on the inside, we’re going to need a lot more than two to stay alive.”

“The entire point of the plan is not to get caught,” Casey says. “Fewer people minimize the risk of exposure.”

There’s some sense to all that – Rick knows it, he sees it--but he still doesn’t like the idea. “But if we do need to blast our way out--”

“Then we’re probably already dead,” Michael says.

Rick pauses, and looks at his teammates uncertainly. They’re all looking at him, and it’s clear they all feel the same way. They saw this loose end coming a mile away and it hasn’t even made them blink.

This should be encouraging. He’s not going to be asking anyone to go in blind.

But it still unsettles him. Because this is his intel and his mission. This is his game and the thought of anything going wrong is more than he knows how to deal with.

Rick takes a breath and then another. He nods, resolute, finding his courage and holding it firmly. “Okay,” he says. “So Billy and I will continue into the facility.”

“I still think I should be the one to accompany you,” Casey says somewhat dourly. He looks at Billy. “No offense.”

Billy shrugs. “You have earned the nickname human weapon with good reason,” he says.

Rick shakes his head, feeling his confidence swell. “Like you said, the fight inside is about stealth, not power,” he says. “Our mole and his family are more at risk. That’s where we need our heavy hitters.”

“So, first we take out the security camera at the west entrance, where our mole is stationed,” Michael says.

“Wind bursts across the plains are not uncommon,” Rick reports.

“Then you and Billy gain access through legitimate channels,” Casey continues.

“It’ll take them about ten minutes to get cameras working again, and only five to have a team on site to investigate,” Rick confirms.

“Which is all the time we need to make our way in and pick a rather circuitous route to the records,” Billy adds.

“Which we know by location from our source,” Rick says.

“Then Casey and I show up as government inspectors,” he says.

“And you point the finger at our mole and take him into custody,” Rick continues.

“Which will freak the security staff at the compound out and divert their attention from the real trouble brewing,” Casey explains.

“Exactly,” Rick says, pacing again with nervous excitement. “Which should give us plenty of time to steal the records and make a clean exit.”

“While we take our mole back to a secure location,” Michael says.

“You’ll have to lose your tail, though,” Rick says. “If they find your location, the entire thing will fall apart.”

Michael looks at Casey. Casey shakes his head. “Trust us, it’s nothing we can’t handle,” he says.

“And the higher ups will be so concerned with tracking their lost guard that they won’t have the time or attention to devote to any anomalies on the base,” Billy says with a grin. “It’s a brilliant plan, gents.”

Rick stops and thinks about it. “Maybe not brilliant,” he says. Then he looks back at the others, almost hopeful. “But I think it might just work.”

“In our book,” Michael says. “That’s definitely close enough.”

-o-

Rick spends most of the mission thinking about all the ways it can go wrong. When he and Billy are at the checkpoint, he worries that someone will overrule their mark and deny them access. Once they get past the gate, he worries someone will stop them and look over their credentials again. As they enter the building, he worries that their manipulation of the security camera will fail and that he and Billy are on candid camera. When the security detail goes to investigate the security camera malfunction, Rick worries that they won’t believe that Casey and Michael are who they say they are.

It can go wrong at any point. Michael and Casey can be outed. Someone can open fire. Michael not be able to lose the tail. Someone on the inside might look twice at Rick and Billy. The files might be harder to find that he suspects.

But it doesn’t. They get in and no one looks twice. In the records room, Rick hurries, scanning the documents digitally and finalizing the transmission. From his post at the door, Billy doesn’t even have to say anything and by the time they’re on their way out, Rick is starting to believe that maybe this has worked.

Billy doesn’t take time to comment as they make their way out, but the barely contained smile on his face says enough. In their car, they’re driving to the checkpoint and Rick can still see the commotion that Michael and Casey’s dramatic arrest must have caused. There are security guards everywhere, guns slung on tense shoulders.

Rick’s stomach churns a little, but Billy keeps his head high. As he stops at the gate, he grins up at the guard who stares back at him hard.

“Who are you?” he demands.

“Quality consultants,” Billy says without hesitation.

“ID please,” the guard barks.

Billy provides his. The man looks over the list. He looks at Billy.

Rick swallows. He glances out across the checkpoint to the free, open road no more than twenty feet away.

This is the last step. This is the only hurdle left.

Reluctantly, the guard hands Billy back his ID.

Billy puts it in his pocket. He’s about to say something--about the weather, about the commotion, Rick doesn’t know and never finds out--when the guard raises his gun and points it through the window.

And suddenly nothing is close enough.

-o-

It happens quickly. The guards start yelling, one and then another. By the time he and Billy are manhandled out of the car, there’s a whole unit surrounding them, each member screaming louder than the last. Rick’s linguistic skills struggle to keep up with the rapid fire orders, but he makes out traitors and no coincidence and likely threat in the melee.

Billy is being pressed against the far side of the car, legs spread apart as he’s patted. Rick holds his hands up and tries to say something, but no one is listening. There’s a gun being waved in his face and he’s being herded against the car door.

Hot, heavy hands run down his body and empty out his pockets. Across the car, Billy meets his eyes grimly.

It’s a lot to take in, but Rick reminds himself that their cover is still technically in place. The guards are suspicious and with reason. The CIA techs are paid to flesh out background stories, so all the phone calls should end up at legitimate sources. They should be confirmed and released and it will all be okay.

As someone pulls out Rick’s wallet, he takes a steadying breath and tells it to himself again: They’re going to be okay.

The guards let Billy up. He pushes himself from the car and starts to turn, smiling and hands up. He’s going to say something.

He never gets the chance.

The butt of a gun rams hard across his face and he goes down just that fast.

Rick’s about to protest, about to go help him when a gun presses into his back and holds him very, very still.

Two guards bend over and hoist Billy up. From his vantage point, Rick can see Billy’s eyes blinking but his feet don’t seem to be working quite yet. He stumbles as the guards drag him, head dangling forward as he’s pulled haphazardly toward the entrance.

The guards with Rick are gentler. As they pull him away from the car, the gun stays positioned, pressed into his back as he’s marched after Billy towards the compound.

-o-

In Rick’s mind, he can still hear his teacher back on the Farm.

“It’s not as common as the movies have you think. Most operatives, if they’re careful and good, will never face full on captivity and torture.”

Rick remembers taking comfort in that.

“If you are captured, stick to your cover story at all costs. You must believe it and you must value your own life last. Your life is not more important than the missions or the country you have given yourself to serve.”

Rick remembers believing in that.

“There are techniques to survive torture. And I will teach them to you, but no one can teach you how to use them. You only discover that in your own times of need. Some of you will succeed; others will fail. That’s where heroes are made.”

Rick remembers knowing he’d be a hero.

But with his hands bound, on his knees in a warm, damp room, suddenly there’s no comfort, no belief, no ideas of heroism. Just a man with a knife and two men with guns at the door and no way out.

-o-

It’s funny, because they don’t start with questions.

In fact, they don’t say anything at all. The guards at the door remain impassive, erect with guns in hand. The other man, the one in front of Rick with the knife, eyes him coldly before backhanding him hard across the face.

Rick expects a question to follow, or at least an accusation. But the man’s face is hard and unyielding and as he puts a boot into Rick’s stomach, it’s clear that violence is the only introduction he’s going to get.

The blow to his stomach leaves him winded, literally reeling as his chair slides dangerously across the floor, tipping a little before righting itself with a precarious clatter. There is no reprieve when a punch lands directly across his face this time, dimming his vision and splitting his lip.

He’s sputtering, blinking rapidly to clear the spots from his vision. Spitting blood, he looks up.

The man is watching him carefully and the coolness on his face gives way to a smile. He rounds Rick, like a predator stalking its prey, and Rick tightens his jaw and grits his teeth as he tries not to show the fear building in his gut.

The man still says nothing as he approaches, holding the knife carefully in front of him so Rick can see it glint in the light of the bare bulb overhead.

It’s unnerving, which Rick figures is the point, because he can see the blade as it inches toward his skin. His arm prickles with goosebumps and he holds his breath, but nothing prepares him for the first slice across his forearm.

The knife is sharp and slides easily through the fabric of his shirt and the layers of his skin. Blood blossoms in its wake, spilling quickly onto his skin and staining the torn shirt.

Rick takes a breath and holds it, remembering everything he can from his training. He steels himself and mentally tells himself that he can do this. He can do this.

The next slice cuts the other arm and is followed by a quick stab to his thigh. Rick can’t help but grunt, squeezing his eyes shut from the pain. There’s no reprieve as the knife slashes at his chest this time, cutting through his shirt and into the soft, giving flesh underneath.

This continues without pattern or purpose, the knife cutting until Rick lets out a scream.

There’s a pause. Panting, Rick looks up. The man is smiling again, eyes focused and gleaming.

There’s still no question as he cuts again and Rick screams his wordless answer to the walls around him.

-o-

It doesn’t end.

He’s bleeding and he’s lightheaded but it doesn’t end. The man shows no intention of stopping, no interest in pushing for more. Rick thinks to spill his cover story anyway, but he somehow doubts it will be an effective deterrent at this point. These people either know who he is or don’t care who he is.

Rick’s going to die either way.

It’s a surreal, cold revelation that settles uneasily in his stomach. He doesn’t have much more skin to give and he knows that the cuts, while painful, are superficial, something which can only last so long. The point of torture is usually to obtain information. Since Rick has been asked nothing, he can only assume that his captor is hoping he’ll say something of his own accord or that the torture is just a means to soften him up for when the real questioning begins.

Which means this isn’t quite torture. This is basically foreplay.

Either way, Rick is going to die.

He has to stay strong, and he wills himself not to cry. He’s losing that battle when the door opens.

The man pauses, looking back at the new man. They’re dressed in similar clothing, each armed with comparable weaponry. The new man whispers into the knifeman’s ear, and together they eye Rick with critical and appraising looks.

His captor nods his head and says something to the guards. The guards approach wordlessly, hefting him up under his armpits and dragging him along until his feet manage to find their place on the ground. He stumbles out of the room, jerked harshly to the side as the guards march him through the halls.

Behind him, the door closes, and just like that it’s over.

-o-

Rick thinks he should be keeping a mental record of the corridors, but his head is hurting too much. He manages to notice a few right turns and then a left before it’s all he can do to keep his feet moving while he’s dragged. He’s trying to get his bearings again when he’s pulled to an abrupt stop and unceremoniously shoved through a door.

Without the guards’ support, Rick crumbles, hitting the cement floor hard on his hands and knees. It takes him a minute to catch his breath and when he finally manages to lift his head, he realizes the door is closed and he’s alone.

That much is something of a relief. The pressing of metal on his flesh was exhausting--mentally and physically. The presence of his captors had been unnerving. This newfound solitude is a welcome reprieve.

At least, on some level. On another level, Rick knows this really isn’t much better. The good news is that he’s not going to die immediately. The bad news is that he’s in a cement cell with presumably no way out. Which means he’s probably still going to die. Just not right away.

Dying later is still preferable to dying now, he supposes, since there is the chance of escape or rescue.

Which, given the state of his headache and the weakness in his limbs, Rick’s inclined to think rescue is a more likely option. Unless, of course, he somehow manages to rally enough strength to break out of this room, overpower the guards, and make a dead run to freedom across the scorching savanna.

So yeah, rescue.

Sighing, Rick pushes himself back into a sitting position, easing himself up slowly against the wall. It’s not much in the way of comfort, but it feels better than before. Situated, he takes a few cleansing breaths and looks around his cell in earnest.

It’s small – no more than five by five – and there is nothing distinguishing about it. Each wall is identical to the last, with uneven cement floor punctuated by a single drain in the middle of the room. There is a door with a rusted metal vent above it.

There’s another bare bulb in the ceiling but no sign of a light switch on the interior. From his vantage point, he can see the dead bolt in the locked position.

Rick sighs again and closes his eyes. He needs to figure a way out of this. He can hope for rescue, but he shouldn’t count on it. He needs to be proactive. He can’t give in. There is no telling how long he’ll have, and he should use every moment.

And Rick wants to. He really does. But the cuts on his body hurt and his head aches. The exhaustion is settling in even as he takes pained breaths into the stillness. Eyes closed, he listens for the sounds of movement in the hallway and drifts away into the darkness for just a little more reprieve.

-o-

When the door opens it startles him. Rick jars awake and is trying to find his sense of where he is when he hears a meaty thud and a pained grunt.

Just that fast, the door is closed, and Rick is just getting his vision in order when he sees Billy’s form piled in the middle of the floor.

Even though his own body is still sore, Rick finds new strength to move. “Billy,” he calls, scrambling across the floor. “Hey.”

The older operative doesn’t move, and he doesn’t resist when Rick rolls him on his back. Billy’s eyes are open, but seem hazy, and he manages a tight smile as his eyes meet Rick’s.

“Cozy accommodations you have here,” Billy quips with effort, his voice strained.

Rick laughs, mostly because it feels so good to hear another human voice. He wets his lips and shakes his head. “And such hospitality, too,” he jokes.

Billy’s smile widens even as his brow creases with pain. His body is trembling and Rick gets a good look at the Scottish man for the first time. His shirt is in tatters – worse than Rick’s own –and the blood seems to be everywhere. A cursory glance tells Rick that most of the cuts are superficial – most like Rick’s own – but the colorful bruising down one side of his face is something else. Worse than that, there’s one jagged rip down Billy’s right arm and Rick doesn’t have to look hard to see that it is a substantial wound.

“What happened?” Rick asks.

Billy struggles to a sitting position and Rick helps him to the wall to prop him up. Swallowing, Billy takes a ragged breath. “Our friends seem quite fond of their knives,” he says.

Rick winces. “I know that,” he says. “But all mine are superficial. What did you do to make them so mad?”

Billy smiles briefly and he shuts his eyes, resting his head against the wall. “My sparkling personality, I would wager,” he says.

“Did they ask you anything?” Rick wonders.

Billy shakes his head, still taking shallow breaths. “They’re not real talkative.”

“So what do they want?” Rick asks.

Billy opens his eyes and looks at Rick plainly.

Rick feels sheepish and nods. “Yeah, I guess,” he says.

“It’s all good, though,” Billy drawls, his voice heavy as it slurs slightly.

Rick frowns. “How’s that?”

Billy’s smile spreads for just a second. “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies,” he says, and his attention seemed to drift as his eyes slip closed and don’t reopen.

Rick waits for a moment, his heart thudding in his chest. He grasps Billy’s good arm – or his better arm, at any rate – squeezing it gently. “Hey,” he hisses. “Hey!”

Billy’s eyes flutter open and his entire face seems to put effort into focusing on Rick.

“What are we going to do?” he demands, and it feels silly and childish, but he’s fresh out of ideas and if there’s ever been a time when Rick has wanted some guidance, it’s now.

Face lined with exhaustion, Billy offers him a lopsided half-smile. “Two guards in the hall. No likely surveillance in this room. We’ve already been pegged as traitors; they’ll beat us until we are so relieved to answer a question, we spill everything,” he says. He shakes his head. “We hold strong and look for any opportunity.”

It’s what Rick has already figured out. He shakes his head helplessly. “And in the meantime?”

Billy’s body seems to sag and his eyelids grow heavy as he struggles to hold Rick’s gaze. “Rest,” he murmurs as his eyes slip shut again. “Rest.”

This time, Billy’s body seems to go completely lax and Rick doesn’t have the heart to try to rouse him again. Instead, he settles himself against the wall, his shoulder touching Billy’s.

He sighs, looking around the room before look back at Billy, whose long legs were stretched across the small space. His own energy levels are still low and as he mentally catalogues the lack of exits, he can’t stop himself from drifting back into sleep, his head lolling against Billy’s as unconsciousness claims him again.

-o-

The door opens again, and this time Rick is awake enough to protest as the guards jerk him hard. Billy flails weakly at the commotion and Rick is prepared to fight when he realizes that the guards haven’t come for him. After pushing Rick aside, the guards have turned to Billy, hoisting the Scotsman to his feet and forcibly dragging him toward the door.

“Wait,” Rick says with a sudden spike of panic. It’s hard to be locked in an enemy cell; it’s a sudden terror to be locked there alone. His heart thuds in his chest and his throat tightens. “Wait, no!”

No one listens to him. Maybe Rick should expect this, but it doesn’t change the way it makes him feel.

Billy is stumbling, feet barely working as he’s moved against his will. It’s clear that Billy is only semiconscious, and Rick knows the Scottish operative isn’t ready for another round of whatever is waiting for him.

Rick moves forward, the need to do something pressing him past his fear. “Where are you taking him?” he asks, tries to demand, but he doesn’t quite pull it off, no matter what his intentions.

There’s still no answer and Rick charges the door after them, desperate to get one last look at Billy before he’s taken.

One guard stops short, holding his hand out. For a second, Rick’s ready to fight this. Cover story or not, he thinks he can fight this. He can make sure he and Billy stick together, that they have at least that much comfort. He can’t just let them take Billy.

But the guard lifts up a gun, holding it squarely at Rick.

It’s not a punch, but it’s just as effective at stopping Rick in his tracks. He looks imploringly at the man, tries to hold his eye contact. He tries to see the person behind the uniform, the humanity behind the gun. “Please,” Rick says. “Where are you taking him?”

There’s a flicker in the guard’s face but no indication that the man even understands him. But Rick is standing with his hands up and his face open, begging to be understood.

“Take me instead,” Rick offers. “He’s hurt worse than I am. He’s no good to you. Take me.”

It’s stupid to say, and Rick knows it. It goes against everything he’s learned. Protecting your team is paramount, but throwing yourself into peril just leaves your partner more vulnerable. It’s not a practical solution to finding an effective means of ultimate escape.

But this isn’t a practical situation. This isn’t some training exercise. This is he and Billy, locked in a terrorist compound, both hurting and alone. This is Billy, too hurt to stand being taken to God knows what. This is about Rick having to stay alone in a cell while his friend could be hurt, could be tortured, could die.

None of the training matters. None of the training makes any difference to the pull of emotions inside of him. Right then, he’ll bargain just about anything to get Billy back, to get them both out alive.

The guard lifts his chin and sneers, holding his aim even as he slams the door in Rick’s face.

It’s a stark reality, being alone. Billy is gone – he’s gone – and it occurs to Rick now that he doesn’t know how long Billy will be gone. If he’ll be back. If it’ll be Rick’s turn next.

For a moment, Rick can only stare at the wall. Just like that, he’s alone again. His hope teeters precariously. He doesn’t like to think he’s prone to despair, but he has to admit, it’s pretty hard not to feel it creeping up inside of him. As far as things go, this is about as hopeless as it gets, and he’s not sure what he’s supposed to do.

Sit here? Try to find a way out? Endure? Escape?

None of them sound ideal to Rick. Still, he forces himself to breathe, blinking back tears as the desperation swells in him again.

And he still doesn’t know why they’re being held. He doesn’t know what tipped them off. Rick doesn’t know anything except that they’re screwed.

Pacing toward the walls, Rick chews his fingernail. They’re screwed. He tries not to think of it like that but the fact is he’s not sure there’s another way to think about it. Their covers may be compromised, and Casey and Michael have no way back in.

But their intel is safe, which is something, but that’s about the only silver lining. That should be enough. Rick’s always said the mission matters most.

Then again, Rick’s never been locked in an enemy compound with impending torture and doom and no clear way out.

All things considered, Rick’s not sure if the silver lining is much to assuage being stuck inside this storm cloud.

His team will come for him, though, Rick reminds himself as he walks around the room. His body aches and his head hurts and Billy’s gone, but the team will come. He feels alone, but he’s not. He’s not and neither is Billy.

Rick trusts his team enough to believe that.

He sighs, looking up at the four cement walls and tells himself he believes it.

-o-

This time, Rick stays awake.

It hurts less, which helps, but seeing Billy and then seeing Billy taken has reminded Rick what’s really on the line here. While there is still ample reason for self-pity, feeling sorry for himself isn’t going to help the situation. Neither is resting or wondering what went wrong.

The fact is simple: something did go wrong. Rick can’t be sure what but he has to operate under the assumption that everything is compromised. The key now is to stay true. He can’t divulge anything; his cover is important even when it’s gone. And, more than that, he needs to find some kind of advantage.

Obviously, a full on escape route would be ideal, but Rick’s not quite so naive as to think that’s entirely likely. Even if he finds a way out of this cell, he has the guards and the winding corridors of the compound. Not to mention an entire savanna to cross before he finds anything resembling safety and/or civilization.

However, that dim picture aside, if his team is coming for them, then Rick needs to be prepared. Any kind of extraction will undoubtedly be a delicate situation and any kind of assistance Rick can provide from the inside will only enable things to go smoother. Or at least, quicker.

Either way, it might help their chances at success.

Which, given the current situation, seems rather important.

In all of this, Rick is rather resolved.

He just wishes that he knew what he was looking for.

Because yeah, it sounds well and good to look for weaknesses in the security, but the fact is he’s still locked in a cement box, so his point of view on the situation is somewhat limited.

Still, Rick has to stay the course. It’s not like he has any alternatives. Sitting there idly will only remind him of how screwed he is and how Billy’s not there anymore.

So Rick runs a mental check. Yes, the walls are cement. They seem thick, if the echo of his taps is any indication. He can’t hear much from the outside, which is another indication of just how secure the room is. It also might denote that he’s being kept in a seldom used portion of the compound. Again, which makes sense. Even terrorists probably prefer keeping one type of nefarious enterprise from out and out kidnapping.

There are no discernible weaknesses in the walls and nothing to indicate that any of them abut toward the outside. The drain in the floor has some possibilities, but when Rick removes the grating he doesn’t get much except a foul smell in his face and a dark hole just big enough for his wrist to get stuck in. The floor surrounding it is thick and solid.

Which leaves the door. Rick knows this is going to be the most vulnerable point, but even that doesn’t offer him much. The bolts can’t be taken out from the inside and it’s been locked with a deadbolt with no inside access. The vent above it could probably be jimmied free, but not without significant commotion, which would undoubtedly draw attention to himself. Even then, getting out of the grate would be an interesting challenge, and Rick doesn’t like the image of himself being shot to death with his ass hanging out into the hallway while he tries to wriggle free.

From the best Rick can discern from the quiet scuffles outside his cell, there is at least one guard on duty, maybe two, but no more than that. They don’t seem to have much to do, so slipping away unnoticed isn’t possible but overthrowing them quickly might work. He could even break the light bulb for pieces of glass, which could be used for an attack if necessary.

If he could get out.

Which, he can’t.

Ultimately, Rick concludes that he’s still screwed. He’s just better informed about how screwed he is now.

Sighing, he sinks back to the floor and rests his head against the wall. He wishes Billy were here.

But more than that, he wishes they were both safe and driving to the airport, asset and intel in tow.

Mostly, Rick just wishes he were anywhere but here.

-o-

It actually seems cliché. The idea of an agent being tortured. Being kept and held, hurt and manipulated. It’s the stuff of movies and best selling novels. Jason Bourne and Mission Impossible.

It happens, of course, but not so often as sensationalistic stories would have people believe. And yet, Billy still understands why authors and screenwriters rely on such tropes. It makes for good entertainment, to see the hero pitted against such heartless forces, to see them tested, to see what their resolve is made of in the end.

The good ones never break. They hold strong, even until the end, be it death or miraculous rescue. The endings of such stories are always climactic and meaningful and the hero is rightfully honored for the sacrifice that common man simply cannot comprehend.

Torture.

It’s nothing like that.

Torture is dirty and ragged. It’s pitiful and cruel. There’s nothing heroic in seeing a man’s body broken, seeing his will trampled beneath callous boots. The poeticism of a lie against interrogation is marred by sharp line breaks and the crunching of bone.

Torture is as much the long and agonizing silences, where the body aches and fear grapples at the awareness, as it is the strikes and slices that make the entire ordeal as colorful as it is.

Billy has been here before. Not in this room and not in this compound. He doesn’t know these men or what their ultimate ends may be. But tied to the chair, the naked light glaring in his eyes, Billy has still been here before.

He swallows hard and doesn’t let his gaze waver. His captor paces in front of him. He’s armed--at least two guns and three blades that Billy can see--and the room is better stocked than the first with equipment Billy can’t quite identify in the shadows. A pair of guards flank the door and the sound of his captor’s footsteps echo in the room.

The man doesn’t ask any questions. Billy understands this, too. A hopeless man will trade his soul far quicker than one with something left to fight for. Billy’s meant to feel hopeless. He’s meant to believe there is no discernible reprieve. He’s meant to think that he has no other options so when he’s finally given the option to talk, he’ll start blathering to spare himself the pain.

But Billy’s never been particularly good with orders. Anyone who doubts that can ask the British government.

He forces a smile, cocking his head. “Well, gents,” he says. “Are we going to get this started?”

His captor pauses, his eyes narrowing.

Billy has a tendency to talk in any situation, but his motives are not so superfluous now. If the guards are using silence to trap him, Billy will take away their bargaining chips by talking anyway.

“Should I tell you who I am again? Or do we have that one down by now?” he asks, smirking. “Would you like to hear where I’m from?”

The only reply is a fast fist hard across his face. It rocks Billy in the chair and he sees stars. He blinks rapidly, spitting blood.

Shaking his head, he looks back up, feeling blood running down his chin. “So we’re moving straight on to current employment, then?” he says.

This time, the boot sends him reeling and Billy hits the ground with a clatter and the real torture begins.

-o-

Rick does what he can. He goes over the confines of the room again and again. He mentally recites the proper protocol when being taken captive. He goes over the intricate details of his alias, saying his fake name and job history into the dank emptiness of the cell. He’s talking his way through his alias’ extended family when the door opens.

It comes as such a surprise that Rick barely has time to get to his feet before Billy is deposited on the floor roughly and the door is slammed shut. For a moment, Rick laments the lost opportunity of escape, but quickly realizes he has greater concerns.

On the floor, Billy hasn’t twitched. When Rick rolls him to his side, it’s clear that the Scottish operative is unconscious.

And one good look down the length of his body and it’s easy to see why.

Billy had been a mess before; he looks frighteningly garish now. There’s enough blood to cast him as an extra to a horror flick, and it seems to be stained intermittently over his body with no clear wound to account for it all. What is easy to see, however, are the tatters of Billy’s clothing, which now seem to hang off him like he’s a scarecrow getting picked at in the fields.

Carefully, Rick pulls away the tatters to look beneath and, in the naked light, it’s easy to see the crisscrossing cuts and slices, most of which are still weeping blood. Some look deeper than others, and the skin pulls open and shut with every wheezing breath Billy seems to be taking, strained even in unconsciousness.

There’s still nothing fatal; the wound in his arm from the first round still seems to be the worst of the damage. But there’s also a new colorful array of bruising to contend with, settling in to darkening shades across Billy’s chest and stomach. Billy’s face is a mess as well, with his lip busted and swollen and his nose leaking haphazardly. One side is puffy and Rick doubts that Billy would be able to open that eye even if he were conscious.

Which Billy most decidedly is not. Billy hasn’t even twitched through Rick’s cursory exam. His breathing is pained, face tense even in unconsciousness. But, despite this, he shows no signs of waking.

Considering the painful nature of the wounds, Rick sort of thinks that might be a good thing. But given the blood loss and possible head wounds, Rick also knows it could be a sign of something worse.

More than that, Rick isn’t sure he wants to handle this on his own. Because Billy out of commission leaves him in charge. He has to make the decisions. He has to fend for Billy and himself.

There’s a weight with that, unexpected and frightening. For all he’s wanted to find his leadership on this team, he’s not sure he wants to find it like this. He’s not even sure he knows what to do with it now that it’s fallen unceremoniously into his lap.

But the fact that it has been thrust to him, the fact that there’s no one else to do this, is something Rick can’t run from. These fours walls are impenetrable from what he can tell, and Billy looks broken on the floor and Rick has to do what he can.

Even if he can’t do much, he has to do something.

Resolved, Rick moves Billy gently, pulling his lax body back away from the middle of the room and rolling him to his side against the wall in what looks like a reasonably comfortable position. He checks Billy’s breathing – notes it’s steady, if strained – and then checks the bandage on his arm. It’s mostly soaked through. Hesitating for a moment, Rick takes Billy’s shirt and rips a strip out of it. Given how frayed it is, he figures it’s probably more useful this way anyway.

Removing the old bandage, Rick quickly ties on a new one, then tears a few more strips to apply to the worst of the new wounds. When he’s done, Billy doesn’t look much better, but Rick still feels better. Marginally, at least.

Sitting back on his heels, Rick sighs. He looks at Billy’s face again and wishes he were awake. But he’s not and Rick’s still in the cell, waiting for...

Something.

Rescue, more torture, death. It’s a toss up at this point. But he can’t operate under those conditions. He has to labor under the pretense that he will survive, that he can still protect the mission, save himself, and save Billy, too. That means he has to stay vigilant. He has to keep looking for weaknesses, ways out.

His eyes linger on Billy. He has to stay strong – for Billy and for himself.

Looking around the four bleak walls, Rick sighs. Chewing his lip, he listens to the emptiness in the hallway and then looks at Billy again. Plotting is important, but taking care of Billy is his first concern. And even if he can’t treat the wounds, maybe he can ease the pain. Maybe he can just be there.

Scooting back, Rick positions himself along the wall close to Billy’s head. Settling in, he hesitates then puts his hand on Billy’s shoulder. He tells himself it’s to hear the push and pull of Billy’s breathing, to make sure his condition doesn’t worsen. And for now, it seems, there’s no one to question him on it.

Still, that’s a win in Rick’s book and on a day like today, Rick will take any win he can find.

-o-

Minutes stretch by. Rick has an innate sense of time, and he feels the minutes as they creep into hours.

He shifts occasionally to fend off the pins and needles in his backside. Billy stirs from time to time but he doesn’t wake. Rick checks the bandages and finds them wet but not worse, and beyond that, there’s not much for him to do.

It’s another method of torture, he understands. Isolating prisoners can enhance their sense of hopelessness, making them more prone to talking when the questions start coming.

Rick also notes that they’ve been offered no food or water. It’s been long enough now that Rick’s stomach is rumbling and his bladder feels full. But their captors don’t seem interested in being humane. Rick supposes that’s to be expected, given that they’re terrorists who kidnap and torture people.

It’s another tactic, Rick recognizes. Sheer pain has some impact, but creating a total dependency on the captor is what really breaks the will.

This makes Rick nervous even as it gives him the resolve he needs to keep doing what he’s doing.

Which is, exactly, nothing.

But, nothing without despair. He has to stay strong, he has to stay focused. He can’t let the psychological games get to him.

Though, really, he’s not entirely sure how he’s supposed to be reacting under such circumstances. Should he be more proactive? Should he be demanding to be spoken to? Should he already be developing an exit strategy?

Rick doesn’t know. He knows a lot of things, but he doesn’t know this, and his own lack of knowledge in this regard is as shocking as it is disconcerting. The Farm covers a lot of things, including torture and psychological condition, but somehow none of it seems to apply. Not when he’s actually locked in a cell without food or water and a hurt teammate while awaiting probable torture and death and possible rescue.

Maybe not in that order.

When Billy stirs again, Rick is so relieved for the distraction that this time, he moves to his knees and squeezes Billy’s shoulder gently, mindful of the multitude of injuries.

Billy’s face creases with pain and he shifts slightly.

It might be merciful to let him slip back into unconsciousness, but Rick tells himself that he needs Billy awake now. For Billy’s own good just as much as Rick’s.

“Hey,” Rick says, trying not to sound desperate. “Hey, Billy.”

It seems to take effort as Billy’s eyes flutter and Rick can see the slow return to consciousness dawning on his features. He inhales sharply for a moment and holds it, his face tense while he breathes out through it before his eyes stay open and settle on Rick. “Hey,” he says, somehow managing a smile for good measure.

Rick knows it’s a facade, but he’s so damned relieved to see it that he grins back giddily. “Welcome back,” he says.

Billy swallows with difficulty, taking another halting breath before he continues. “Are you referring to this fine prison cell we’re being accommodated in or my harried return to the land of the living?”

The words look like they hurt, but Rick still takes it as a good sign. If Billy has the energy to use superfluous words, then he knows not all is lost. Rick takes a steadying breath of his own and shrugs. “Both,” he offers.

Billy nods slightly. “Well, in both cases,” he says, his voice gaining some strength. “I’m quite relieved to be back.”

With that, Billy seems ready to sit up, pushing up off the ground. His arms shake precariously, though, and Rick is torn between holding him down and helping him up. But Billy manages to get somewhat upright and Rick has no choice but to scramble to assist him, carefully lifting the taller operative into a sitting position and easing him back against the wall.

The process leaves Billy paler than before, and he sucks in hard breaths through his nose as he keeps his eyes closed for a long moment. When he opens them again, his face is still taut and there’s a hint of tears in his eyes.

Still, Billy smiles. “That’s better,” he says. “World looks funny on its side.”

Rick offers a half smile in return. As reassuring as the small talk is, he knows that it’s masking the real issues. Hesitating, he hedges, but gives in to the inevitable. “What did they want?”

Billy shrugs half-heartedly. “They aren’t big into questions,” he says. “But from what I gather, they’re not keeping us around to ask us if we have any novel redecorating ideas.”

Rick tries not to let the answer discourage him. “So they didn’t say anything?”

“Not in so many words,” Billy says. “But their reactions can be quite telling.”

Rick frowns. “Reactions?”

Billy’s smile is knowing. “Just because they don’t ask questions doesn’t mean you can’t give them answers.”

“But what did you tell them?”

“Lovely stories, mostly,” he says vaguely. “Though, given their obvious frustrations, nothing they wanted to hear.”

“They’re getting serious,” Rick says, almost as a warning.

Billy barks a laugh. “Lad, I think they were serious when they pistol whipped me in the parking lot.”

“I just mean—”

Billy nods, his expression faltering just for a second. “I know, I know,” he says. “And it is perhaps looking a bit dim.”

Rick raises his eyebrows. “This is torture.”

Billy scoffs. “This is nothing,” he says.

Rick’s eyes widen.

Billy concedes with a shrug. “It’s nothing but a prelude, anyway,” he says. He sighs, seeming to settle deeper against the wall. “The trick is to stay strong. They want fear, so the best thing we can do is to show no fear.”

Rick knows there’s truth to that. In theory, he agrees.

But in reality – being here – seeing Billy – it’s that much harder.

Billy smiles at him, gentler this time, less forced. He reaches a hand out, squeezing Rick’s wrist. “It’s not a question of fear,” he says. “It’s a question of what you show them.”

Rick swallows, blinking rapidly. He remembers the conversation with Billy before his first kidnapping. “Are you scared now?”

Billy’s smile endures. “Maybe,” he says. “Though, truth is, I hurt too much to care overly.”

Rick tries to laugh, but he doesn’t feel it.

Billy’s expression softens again. “It’s not so bad as you think it is,” he says with reassurance.

“How do you figure that?” Rick asks, trying to make it sound like a joke.

“We’re both here, we’re both more or less in one piece,” he says. “And as long as we have the sense to ask the questions that matter, then we are no closer to risking anything than we are back home. You’re strongest when you know your weaknesses, and given your pallor, I might venture you’re quite aware of your weaknesses right now.”

It’s a truth Rick wants to believe in. He looks at the other operative, looks at the steadiness of his eyes, the blood staining his clothes. “And you?”

“What, I haven’t bled enough to prove my vulnerability?” he quips.

Rick can’t deny that. He smiles against the tightness in his throat. “And what do we do in the meantime?” he asks.

“Patience,” Billy says, taking a deep breath and letting it out carefully. “Patience is the key to perseverance. And given our current situation, we need to hold true to both.”

That’s something Rick can agree with. He nods heartily. “Help will come,” he says. “I know it will.”

This time when Billy smiles, it doesn’t reach his eyes. But his voice is strong when he replies, “Of course it will.”

PART TWO

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: December 12th, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
Good god, how I love this

You are just MAGICAL when it comes to torture. Inventive and the emotional investment is just inevitable. I never get enough of the lovely angst and pain and of course, I don't have to tell that noble Billy is just my utmost favorite thing.

Fave moment (can you guess?):


It happens, of course, but not so often as sensationalistic stories would have people believe. And yet, Billy still understands why authors and screenwriters rely on such tropes. It makes for good entertainment, to see the hero pitted against such heartless forces, to see them tested, to see what their resolve is made of in the end.

The good ones never break. They hold strong, even until the end, be it death or miraculous rescue. The endings of such stories are always climactic and meaningful and the hero is rightfully honored for the sacrifice that common man simply cannot comprehend.

Torture.

It’s nothing like that.

--Just awesome!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 15th, 2012 03:45 am (UTC)
Re: Good god, how I love this
billy likes

I'm glad the torture reads okay! I honestly felt like I was making up nonsense, so that's great to know :)

Thanks!

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