Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.
A/N: For altpointofview. Beta given by lena7142.
Summary: The CIA will surprise you yet.
When Rick gets to the party, he is underwhelmed. The breakroom has hardly been decorated, except for a dilapidated tree that someone put up in the corner and a random assortment of lights that blink half the time and then seems to turn off for random, extended periods. There are some trays of cookies and someone actually brings some cheese and crackers, and the bowl for punch looks like it was salvaged from the 1970s.
He stops in the doorway, wondering if he’s early. There are a few people milling around, including one of the secretaries in a ridiculous Christmas sweater and a reindeer headband on her permed head.
Behind him, the rest of the ODS fans out. Michael grunts. “Looks like we’re right on time,” he says.
Rick makes a face. “This is it?”
“What were you expecting?” Casey says, moving forward and snagging a cracker. “Actually, this is better than normal.”
Rick looks around again. “Really?”
Billy moves forward, picking up one of the napkins and examining it before putting it back askew. “Don’t sound so disappointed, lad,” he says, rifling past a few pieces of cheese until he finds one he deems satisfactory. “The CIA will surprise you yet.”
Looking back at the lackluster decor and meager food supply, Rick’s not so sure.
After an hour, the room is full. People are milling about and the conversation is bustling. Rick has to admit, it is a bit more festive in spirit, but the selection of small talk leaves something to be desired.
“See, this is why I make a point to work out by knocking over my own Christmas tree,” Blanke explains proudly.
Rick tilts his head. “You mean you chop your own?”
“No, I mean I knock down my own,” Blanke says, totally serious. “I go out to the woods and find one that’s just the right size. They can’t be too big or the trunk is too thick, but too skinny and they don’t handle the weight well. And then I charge.”
Rick stares, hoping the man is joking.
Blanke continues, oblivious. “The trick is to get low enough,” he says. “If you go too high, you splinter it in the middle. And always look away when you get in range.” He leans forward with a wink. “Learned that one the hard way.”
Someone brings a sub to share and Rick munches while sipping a drink. He’s gotten trapped in a conversation with Farmer and the rest of the technology department, and he’s worn out. Adele is overseas with work, and Rick’s thinking of taking an early night.
And then someone breaks out the alcohol.
The first toast is nice. It’s an ode to dedication and loyalty, to doing the jobs no one wants for recognition that never comes.
The second toast is nice, too. It’s about camaraderie and teamwork, and fighting the good fight together.
After the fifth toast, it doesn’t matter if they’re nice. Rick’s here to stay.
Billy starts a singalong at some point, crooning Christmas songs with wild abandon, even when he can’t remember the words. He’s flitting about, and when he finally staggers into Rick, he has to blink a few times to recognize him.
“Martinez!” he says, almost glowing with enthusiasm. “How’s the party?”
Rick frowns. “You’re drunk!”
“Aye!” Billy rejoins gleefully, flinging an arm around Rick. “With very cheap scotch! Come on, I’ll get you a bottle!”
Rick pulls away, shaking his head. “We’re professionals,” he says. “Are you sure this is a smart idea? What if there’s an emergency?”
Billy’s face contorts in the utmost seriousness -- at least the most he can manage while clearly impaired. “Are you implying that I am unfit for duty?”
Rick nods. “Yes.”
Billy scoffs, swatting Rick. “I am nowhere near impaired,” he says. “I am still one of the best agents in this Agency. Fit and capable at all times. And I resent any insinuation to the contrary. Alas! No scotch for you!”
With that, Billy staggers off, almost running into a table and tripping on a chair instead before being caught by one of the guys from accounting. Billy pushes himself up and turns back at Rick with his head held high and a look of righteous indignation.
Then he turns, trips and takes out the tree.
He can’t find Casey anywhere. When he asks around, he’s finally directed toward the supply closet. Confused, Rick ventures forward. It’s hard to hear, but there seem to be sounds of distress. Concerned, he reaches out and opens the door--
And sees Casey and the new recruit from counterfeiting, interlocked and half naked.
“Oh!” Rick says, blushing vigorously and freezing. “I -- um--”
Casey rolls his eyes. “I’m just spreading the holiday cheer,” he says. “Now close the damn door before you let in a draft.”
And promptly decides that it’s well past time to leave.
He doesn’t make it very far. Not when he has to circumvent the chubby bunny contest Billy is somehow leading (and clearly winning) and then he has to duck around Blanke’s reenactment of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He almost makes it to the door when someone grabs him and holds him steady.
He startles, face to face with Doris.
He’s confused, but then she looks up.
He follows her gaze.
And starts to run.
He finds Michael on the way out. Hushed and panicked, Rick tries to adjust his suit. “This is insane,” he says.
Michael leans close. “I know.”
“I mean, everyone is drunk!”
“I know,” Michael says.
“This can’t possibly be sanctioned,” Rick continues. “I mean--”
Then all of a sudden, Michael ducks, yanking Rick down with him. Rick yelps but follows. From his new position on the ground behind the table, he looks at Michael, who is perched, peeking out with the ferocity of a predator stalking its prey.
“What are we doing?!” Rick asks.
Michael hushes him. “Waiting.”
“For what?” Rick asks.
“For this...,” Michael says, swiftly on his feet and moving out. He somehow nabs the mistletoe Rick ran off with to save himself and sticks it over the door, lingering there just as Fay comes around the corner.
She stops when she sees him.
Michael shrugs. “Not my tradition,” he says, pointing up. “But who am I to disappoint.”
She scoffs. “Nice try.”
Michael feigns hurt. “It’s Langley tradition.”
“Yes,” Fay agrees. “Every year you try the same trick. And every year it doesn’t work. Come up with something new next year.”
With that, she eases away into the crowd.
Rick stands, staring at Michael. “Really?”
Michael furrows his brow. “I just need a little more planning....”
Rick just shakes his head.
At some point, Rick gives up. He takes the cup of punch and tastes the alcohol and keeps on drinking. He drinks the next one, too, and manages to belch the entire chorus of Jingle Bells. He’s starting to enjoy himself by dancing to the beat of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” when the door opens.
And Higgins is standing there.
Their boss does not look happy, his face set in a scowl and his eyes scanning the room with a glare. He looks at the destroyed Christmas tree, the open bottles of alcohol. He takes particular note of the public relations department, which seems to be playing strip poker in the corner.
There’s a tense moment, when everyone holds their breath.
Then Billy strides up, weaving only slightly and grins. “Welcome to the party, sir.”
“I assume all of this was cleared with my office,” Higgins says.
“Of course!” Billy says and pulls out a hat and plops it on Higgins head. “Especially this!”
Higgins stands there, the santa hat sitting skewed on his head. He looks like he wants to kill Billy and shut the whole thing down. Instead, he reaches up, adjusts the hat and sighs. “Merry Christmas,” he mutters. “But I expect this all to be cleaned up in the morning, and things back to normal. No exceptions.”
The room erupts into cheers.
At some point, Rick thinks they’ll run out of alcohol and everyone will go home. Of course, Rick can’t really taste anything anymore, so it doesn’t really matter. The room is hazy -- like snow! -- and everyone is so nice.
Still, he looks at his watch. He can’t read it, but it seems like he should go. He promised Adele he’d call.
Staggering to the door, he fumbles for his phone. He’ll need to call a cab somehow, but he’s not sure he can feel his fingers. In the doorway, he stands and stares at his phone, trying to remember how to turn it on.
When he realizes it’s already on, he’s about to dial when Billy is there. He looks as surprised to see Rick as Rick is to see him.
“Fancy meeting you here,” the Scot slurs.
Rick grunts. “It’s the office Christmas party,” he says. “We came together.”
“No, here,” Billy says, pointing up.
Rick glances up. Michael’s mistletoe. Rick laughs, shaking his head. “Traditions are funny--”
“And not to be trifled with!” Billy says.
“I know, but--”
But Billy doesn’t let him finish. Billy is leaning forward.
Rick’s eyes widen and he moves to run. But he’s too slow and Billy’s lips press against his.
It’s hot and awkward and it smells bad and Rick has the sudden urge to hurl when Billy finally pulls away. He looks at Rick critically. “I assume you aren’t that locked with Adele,” he says. “Because that’s no kind of Christmas greeting.”
Rick’s about to balk, but there’s no need. Because Billy’s eyes roll up in his head and he passes out, almost crushing Rick on his way down.
On the floor, Billy splayed on top of him, Rick is pinned and helpless when Michael and Casey appear. “And here I thought you’d be the boring one,” Casey says.
“It’s not nice to take advantage of Billy when he’s drunk,” Michael points out.
Rick’s mouth falls open.
“What do you think, Malick?” Michael asks. “Should we help them?”
Casey scowls. “I vote no.”
“It is the season of giving,” Michael.
“I still vote no,” he says. “I’ll give them a free lesson in self defense tomorrow.”
“But!” Rick says, words failing him as he looks at Billy’s slack-jawed figured. “Please?”
“Oh, all right,” Casey sighs, reaching down. “But just because it’s Christmas.”
In the morning, Rick wakes up on his desk. His head is pounding and the lights are glaring. He groans and almost falls off before catching himself.
Billy is slouched on the floor. Casey and Michael have managed to sit in their chairs. Straining, Rick looks at the clock. 8 AM.
Sitting up, he rubs his eyes and smacks his lips. He doesn’t remember how he got here. In fact, he doesn’t remember much of anything from last night.
But as he looks at his teammates, he remembers that they were right. The CIA had surprised him.
His stomach roiling, Rick thinks that may not be a good thing.
Then again, he thinks with a fond smile, maybe it was.
When the others come to, Rick has coffee. Lots of coffee.
Michael is stony in his hangover. Casey looks like he may kill someone. Billy is woeful.
“I’m never drinking again!” he says.
“Yes, you will,” Michael says. “It’s only a few days until Solstice.”
“That’s different,” Billy mutters, taking a large gulp of coffee and hissing. “I will also have to celebrate Kwanzaa, but that’s another matter entirely.”
Rick cocks his head. “You have African heritage?”
“I like to think of myself as culturally rounded,” Billy tells him.
Casey snorts. “No, Billy looks for any reason to get drunk.”
Billy lifts a finger. “Perhaps there is a reason for self control,” he says. “But on holidays...all bets are off.”
“No kidding,” Michael says, pouring his second cup. He glances at Rick. “You had an eventful first party.”
“And you ended up with all your clothes on,” Casey muses. “I’m impressed.”
Billy pours his fourth cup of coffee. “This is wonderful coffee, lad,” he says. “Best I ever had.”
“It is pretty good,” Michael agrees.
“A pleasant surprise,” Casey says.
Rick grins. “Well, like you said,” he says. “The CIA will surprise you.”
Billy’s grin widens. “That it will,” he says, then he holds his cup aloft. “Merry Christmas, all!”
“Here, here,” Michael says, clinking his mug with Billy’s. Casey joins and Rick follows suit, and they all drink together. It’s not what Rick might expect, but it’s still more than he could ask for this Christmas.