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Chaos fic: A Quiet Night In (1/1)

August 29th, 2013 (05:51 am)
busy
Tags: , ,

feeling: busy

Title: A Quiet Night In

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: Beta provided by sockie1000. Nothing new here. Just the usual :) I’ll try to post something a bit different next week. My muse just really enjoys Billy whump! (Yes, I know that statement shocks exactly no one.)

Summary: Friends, trying to have a quiet night, drinking beer and watching a game. That’s how it’s supposed to be. But that’s not how it is.



-o-

“It’ll be great,” Rick starts, feeling genuinely hopeful. “I mean, we’ll stop off and get some beer and some snacks, and then we can go back to my place, see what’s on. Maybe see a game. My mom did give me a new TV for Christmas last year.”

In his head, it sounds perfect. It sounds like the sort of things he was always too busy to do in high school; the sort of thing his fiance had suggested he try in college. Just hang out with the guys; be normal, relaxed.

And despite their better efforts to hide it, his team does like him. They’re close now; they’ve bled for each other; they’ve risked their lives for each other.

But after he says it, his confidence falters. Because it sounds perfect and normal and relaxed.

Which is exactly why his team will hate it.

Casey scrunches his nose up critically. “You assume that the rest of us have nothing better to do than sit on your couch and drink cheap beer.”

Michael snorts, looking vaguely bemused. “Normally I don’t pass up the chance when someone is buying beer, but I’m busy tonight.”

Rick frowns. “Doing what?”

Michael grins. “Anything but sitting on your couch drinking cheap beer.”

Rick’s shoulders fall. “So it’s better to sit on your couch alone drinking cheap beer? We’ll probably be watching the same game!”

“I won’t be watching any game,” Casey says, matter of fact.

Rick rolls his eyes. “What, will you be meditating? Working out?”

Casey smirks. “You could call it a work out,” he says. “I know Tina and Emily certainly will.”

Rick gapes.

Billy chuckles. “Well, I for one would be thrilled to join you for beer, be it cheap or otherwise,” he says.

“That’s because your hotel’s cable is down,” Michael says.

“That point notwithstanding,” Billy says. “I think we could do with a little downtime. Some team bonding, wherein peril is not involved.”

“Thank you!” Rick says.

Michael shakes his head, gathering his coat. “You two bond, then,” he says. “I’ll see you on Monday.”

Casey is following him. “I’ll see you on Monday, too,” he says. Then he shrugs. “Unless the girls get restless and call Dorothea over. In which case, I may take a day.”

Rick can only watch as they go, before looking sullenly at Billy. “You don’t have to come,” he mutters.

“Aw,” Billy cajoles, getting up and clapping Rick on the shoulder. “I think it sounds like fun! And truth be told, I never have understood baseball.”

Rick groans. “You really don’t have to come,” he says, his suddenly perfect idea seeming like a total disaster now.

“Well, Michael is right about my cable,” he says. “And I may or may not be out of food in my refrigerator.”

“So you’re using me for a free meal,” Rick concludes.

“And the beer!” Billy croons. “Don’t forget the beer!”

-o-

Billy is downright chipper on the way out, but Rick can’t help it if he feels like sulking. For a while, he tries to be discreet, but it goes to figure that Billy notices anyway.

“You know, with the long face, I’m beginning to feel like my company is not satisfactory this evening,” the Scotsman comments as they exit through security.

“It’s not that,” Rick says with an overly dramatic sigh. “I just thought -- I don’t know.” He shrugs, feeling stupid. “I thought we were friends.”

Billy is sympathetic. “Friends is a hard concept in the world of spy craft.”

“But we’re teammates,” Rick insists as they head toward the car. “We’ve risked our lives for each other. We trust each other with our lives. And they don’t want to come over for a beer?”

“Perhaps you underestimate the power of a beer,” Billy says wryly.

Rick scowls. “I think I underestimated the power of our team,” he mutters contrarily.

They step into the sunlight and Billy clucks his tongue. “Don’t take it so personally, lad,” he says with a knowing air. “Spies in general are not known for their camaraderie, and surely you know by now the ODS is a funny lot.”

“Yeah, funny and completely dependent on each other,” Rick insists. “I mean, you guys saved my life in Bolivia. You invited me for a beer. And now when it’s my idea, suddenly it’s taboo to hang out after hours?”

“Taboo? No,” Billy says. “Though you will find that we like to think of such advances as our own ideas first and foremost.”

“So we can only be friends on your terms,” Rick points out sullenly.

“Their terms, mate, not mine,” Billy says defensively. “And you’re still reading way too much into this. Michael and Casey are wonderful, brilliant men. But they’re jaded bastards, through and through.”

Rick glowers a bit. “So?”

“So,” Billy continues without a hesitation. “Michael is divorced, and Casey maintains explicit sexual relations with no long term sentimentality. They aren’t exactly known for their healthy relationships.”

“Sure, with other people,” Rick says. “But this is us!”

“Well, you have to learn to read their affection,” Billy advises.

Rick gives him a look.

“I’m serious!” Billy says. “I mean, take Casey. If he truly hated you, he would treat you with total indifference. The more he scowls and mocks you, the more he finds you worthy.”

“So if he insults me, we’re friends,” Rick says with due disbelief.

“Aye,” Billy says, and then he winks. “You’ll notice he is quite profuse in his disdain for me.”

Rick frowns.

Billy flits his hand in the air. “And Michael -- well, the bastard cared enough to bug your flat. If that’s not affection, I don’t know what is.”

“Wait, he bugged my flat?” Rick asks.

Billy claps him on the shoulder. “A true sign of friendship.”

They’re almost to his car now, and Rick is feeling less enthusiastic about this outing than ever. “So, what, I should take their refusal as a compliment?”

“No,” Billy says. “But you shouldn’t take it as a condemnation either. Team dynamics are strange and mysterious. Give it time. You’ll soon learn to navigate when the time is right and when it’s not.”

Rick still feels crestfallen as he unlocks his door. “So why are you here, then?”

Billy grins at him happily. “Well, I, for one, am weak enough to admit that I need a friend from time to time.”

Rick feels vaguely hopeful. “So you’re saying we are friends?”

“Buy the beer,” Billy says with another wink, “and I’ll be anything you want.”

-o-

Part of Rick wants to sulk, but he has to admit, it’s pretty hard to do with Billy around. He starts talking when Rick starts the car and pretty much doesn’t stop the entire way to the convenience store. When he tells Rick about a mission the ODS was on in Prague three years ago, Rick is laughing so much that he almost forgets to be petulant at all.

Which, of course, is Billy’s point. Rick’s the new guy, but he’s pegged Billy’s in this much. The Scot uses words to diffuse situations. It’s genius in the field, and Rick can’t deny that it’s pretty effective around the office, too. Even when he knows what Billy’s doing, it’s hard not to be swayed by it.

And sure, Rick had wanted this to be a night of team bonding for all of them, but this isn’t so bad. It’s certainly a place to start.

Chuckling, Rick puts the car in park. “So that’s why Casey hates Prague?”

Billy nods sagely, touching his finger to his nose. “And why we pack pantyhose, just in case.”

Rick scoffs. “Are you making all that up?”

With a twinkle in his eyes, Billy grins. “I would never!”

“Yes, you would!”

Billy shrugs coyly. “Even if a few of the details have been embellished for the sake of the story, the basics are still true.”

“And which parts are the basics?”

Billy grunts, pushing open his door. “I’m afraid I have to be a bit inebriated for that level of honesty,” he says, nodding toward the store. “I reckon this is the fine establishment you hope to procure our refreshment from?”

Rick climbs out after him, looking at the store and feeling suddenly embarrassed. “I know it’s not much--”

Billy swats at him. “I live off room service,” he says. “I’m not one to judge you on the finer things in life. Though if you do intend to invite Casey over someday, you may want to consider a place with a bit more alcoholic....”

“Quality?” Rick asks.

“Intensity,” Billy concludes. “But never fear: my standards are exceedingly low.”

“Good to know,” Rick says with a smirk. “We’ll pick up some snacks, too.”

Billy is following along, when his phone suddenly beeps.

“Ah, come one,” Rick chides. “We’re off the clock.”

Billy pulls it anyway. “We’re spies,” he says. “You assume we have a clock at all. You can take the spy out of the game, but the game never leaves the spy.”

“But we’re having a quiet night in,” Rick protests. “Whatever it is, it can wait.”

Billy is scrolling through what seems to be a text, and he makes a face. “In general, I agree,” he says. “However, I should take this.”

“Billy--” Rick whines.

Billy holds up a finger, pressing dial on his phone. “It’ll only take a few moments,” he promised. “And then I’m yours for the rest of the night.”

“Billy...”

Billy already has the phone to his ear as he waves Rick inside. “I’ll be there in five minutes -- I promise!”

“You’re a natural born liar!”

“Not when alcohol and snacks are involved,” he says. “Which, gummy worms. You have to buy gummy worms.”

Rick makes a face. “What are you, ten?”

“That would make you a wee baby, so perhaps,” he says. “Now go!”

Rick wants to protest further, but Billy’s already turned away, finger pressed to his ear as someone answers on the other end of the line. Sighing, Rick shakes his head. “If you blow me off, I’m going to eat all the gummy worms myself! And drink the beer!”

Billy turns with a grin, covering the phone with his hand for a moment. “You wouldn’t live until morning.”

Rick smiles back. “Just so you know where we stand.”

Billy rolls his eyes, but he’s still grinning when he turns away, and Rick goes inside. As far as Rick’s concerned, this is going to be a good night after all.

-o-

Inside, Rick’s mopiness is almost entirely gone. He’s humming to himself as he walks down the aisles. He snags a bag of chips and some M&M’s before rolling his eyes and grabbing a bag of gummy worms. He’s balancing the lot carefully as he moves over to the row of refrigerators, moving directly toward the alcohol. He keeps it simple, selecting a small case before turning and heading toward the registers.

The bell on the door tinkles, and Rick looks up expectantly. But he doesn’t see Billy’s tall and smiling form in the doorway. He’s disappointed when he sees a guy, a few years younger than himself with a hooded jacket pulled up over his head, walk through the entryway. The guy glances down the length of the store, eyes meeting Rick’s briefly, before he goes to the magazine rack by the door.

Rick reminds himself that it’s hardly even been five minutes -- if that -- and that it’s not like Billy would go far on foot. It’s not a big deal.

But as he walks toward the cash register, he can’t help but feel like something’s wrong. Not with Billy necessarily, but with something.

You can take the spy out of the game, but the game never leaves the spy.

Billy’s right about that much. Rick’s off the clock, but his mind is too trained to think like a spy to stop. It has to be, if he’s going to have a chance to keep up with the ODS. So really, he can’t help but notice the little details most people would shrug off.

The clerk is nonchalant, reading a magazine and chewing up by the door. There’s no one else in the store, except the guy by the magazine rack.

The guy who hasn’t picked up a single magazine and has his hands in his pocket. With his hood up, it’s hard to see the guy’s face, which is probably nothing...

Except it’s warm outside. Rick’s been sweating in his suit jacket all day long.

And you don’t stand at the magazine rack to look at the covers. You pick them up and flip through.

And his entire posture is tense, his hand hasn’t moved.

Rick is almost to the counter now, but before he can cross the distance, the guy moves.

That’s when Rick knows.

He’s a spy, after all. All the clues are there, he just has to put them together. If Michael or Casey or Billy had been here, they would have figured it out a lot sooner.

As it is, Rick’s a little slow on the uptake, because he’s off the clock and this is supposed to be a quiet night in, and he’s not a spy here, he’s just a civilian.

So when the guy pulls a gun and points it at the clerk, all Rick can do is gape.

“Give me the money!” the guy yells, and he sounds edgy and desperate as he jabs the gun at the girl.

The girl yelps, hands in the air. “We don’t have more than a hundred in the register!” she says.

“I don’t care,” the guy hisses. “Give me the money!”

“Hey,” Rick says, stepping forward. “Look--”

The guy spins, the gun turning on Rick. “Just shut up, man,” the guy yells, and he looks Rick in the eyes again. This time, they’re frantic and desperate. He’s as scared as he is stupid, and it occurs to Rick what a terrible combination that is.

It also occurs to him that Rick may be a hero in the field, but here...he has no jurisdiction. He doesn’t have any credential. He doesn’t even have a gun.

He’s just a civilian with his hands full of snacks and beer.

Swallowing, he steps back, inclining his head. “We don’t want any trouble,” he says in a conciliatory manner.

“Good!” the man yells. “Now -- get over by the counter!”

Rick hesitates. “Look, let’s just calm down--”

“Get over by the counter!” the man yells, thrusting the gun toward Rick again. It’s impossible not to notice the way his finger is twitching on the trigger -- and that the gun is most definitely loaded.

With a deep breath, Rick has no choice but to comply. He moves toward the counter, the man tracking him the entire time with the gun. When he’s finally in the same line of sight as the clerk, the man seems to let out a breath before nodding at the clerk again. “Okay,” he says. “The money. Now.

The clerk is crying in earnest now. She’s younger than both of them, and her hands are shaking even as she holds them in the air.

“The money,” the guy says. “Or I’ll shoot you both and do it myself!”

The girl chokes hysterically at that, and Rick flinches. “Hey,” he says, as calmly as possible. “Let’s just calm down--”

“I want the damn money!” the guys says, moving forward menacingly.

“And you won’t get it by pointing the guy any closer,” Rick returns. He looks at the clerk. “Let’s just breathe for a moment, and open the drawer--”

He’s moving forward to help, but the man grabs Rick and forces him aside, closer to the door. “No way,” he says. “You stay here, okay?”

The girl is shaking, eyes bright and red.

The man lifts the gun, pointing it squarely at Rick’s chest. “Get the money or I kill him, all right?” he says. “And then I’ll kill you, pop, pop.”

He says it easy, and Rick knows this is crossing a point of no return. Some people can be reasoned with. Others can’t. Maybe if Rick had talked to him when the guy came in; maybe if Billy were here. Maybe if Michael or Casey or a cop with a gun...

But it’s just Rick.

Rick and a scared clerk and a gunmen past the point of reason.

“That’s not going to be necessary,” Rick says, as evenly as possible. He looks the man in the eyes before looking purposefully at the clerk. “We’ll open the drawer.”

She nods, sniffling.

“--and we’ll get you the money,” he says, looking back at the man with a smile. “And we’ll all go home tonight, okay? It’s that easy.”

The girl has stopped wailing; the man seems to relax just slightly. He still holds the gun, ready and poised at Rick, but the frantic edge is gone. The moment is diffusing. This might end up okay.

Then, the front door opens.

Rick startles, looking over in time to see Billy waltzing in. He’s smiling, beaming at Rick. “True to my word, five minutes--”

Rick shakes his head, the protests stuck in his throat along with the denials.

It’s too late, though.

It’s too late.

The man tenses; the girl goes still. Rick’s heart skips a beat.

And the gun goes off.

-o-

Rick’s a rookie, but he’s not stupid. He knows what gunfire sounds like; he knows what a gunshot wound can do to the body. He’s been shot before, after all. He still remember that moment -- that terrifying moment when the gunfire started and Rick knew he was probably going to die.

It’s the same moment now, only this time, Rick’s not dying in the field for some noble cause. This time, Rick’s getting shot in a convenience store robbery, holding a case of beer and a bag of gummy worms.

It’s so stupid.

It’s so stupid.

And there’s nothing Rick can do to change it.

The single shot splits the air, cutting through the convenience store with a terrifying bang. The clerk shrieks, and the word no is wrenched from Rick’s lips, anguished and futile as the echo resounds.

Looking down, his own shirt front is unmarred. Confused, he looks back to the gunman, but he’s not looking at Rick anymore.

He’s looking at Billy.

Shocked, Rick follows his gaze and sees the Scotsman stagger back. He collides heavily with the case of sunglasses by the door before he looks down and stares at the crimson stain spreading across his chest.

He lifts his head, his mouth hanging open as he looks right at Rick, eyes wide and confused.

For a moment, their eyes lock and Rick doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t know what to do.

Before he can figure it out, Billy’s knees give way and he crumples heavily to the ground.

In the background, the clerk screams, and the robber tenses. The gun wavers, and he looks at Billy -- and runs.

He’s gone in two seconds flat, the door slamming shut behind him as he disappears into the night. The girl is sobbing now, and Rick stands, blinking in shock as he looks down at Billy.

Because Billy’s been shot.

Rick got caught up in a convenience store robbery and this is supposed to be a quiet night in and Billy’s been shot.

In all of his worst case scenarios, this hadn’t even registered. He’d never even considered it. It should be impossible. They face peril and danger every day in the field; they’re willing to risk their lives, and they’ve all bled and face near death. This is what they do.

But they’re home now. They’re on US soil. They’re not spies here.

They’re just guys. Coworkers. Friends, trying to have a quiet night, drinking beer and watching a game.

That’s how it’s supposed to be.

But that’s not how it is.

You can take the spy out of the game, but the game never leaves the spy.

Stomach twisting violently, Rick’s instincts kick in and he remembers to move. He has no jurisdiction here, but he’s not some oblivious civilian. He knows how to help.

He has to help.

Moving forward, he hastily drops his would-be purchases before he looks to the counter, where the clerk is still crying. “Call 911,” he orders curtly, going to his knees. “Now.”

“I did,” she says between gasping sobs. “I hit the panic button -- right after he pulled the gun. The cops -- they should be here soon.”

That’s a bit of good news, and Rick will take it. Especially when he gets a good look at Billy.

Billy is laid out awkwardly his shoulders turned to the side with his legs stretch out. The position looks uncomfortable, but given the amount of blood, Rick thinks his positioning is really the least of their concerns.

Because there’s a lot of blood.

Rick remembers being shot in Bolivia; he remembers looking down and seeing his own blood puddling on the floor. He can still see it in the dim light of the SUV, staining his pant leg and smeared across the seat, flecks of it visible on Billy’s hands and forearms. It’d been surreal and unsettling.

This is worse.

Rick took a shot to the leg, but they’d gotten a tourniquet on quickly. Billy, however, has taken a shot straight to the chest, and the bright red blood looks grotesque under the flourescent lights. It’s already stained across his shirt front, spread so wide that it’s hard to see where the wound actually is.

He’s so transfixed with the blood that he doesn’t notice Billy is awake until the Scotsman croaks, “Did you get the gummy worms?”

Rick doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, he chokes a little, shrugging out of his jacket and balling it up with shaking hands as he pulls open the flaps to Billy’s jacket and sees the blood-soaked hole on the right side of Billy’s chest. “Enough to share,” he says, his throat tight as he presses down the jacket on the gushing wound.

Billy winces, struggling a bit in vain. His breathing catches, and his eyes are bright with pain. “Michael and Casey,” Billy says haltingly. “--don’t know what they’re missing.”

Rick laughs hoarsely, and he feels his eyes sting with tears. “Well, maybe next time they’ll come.”

“Aye,” Billy agrees, a little too fast. His eyelids are growing heavy, and Rick can feel the tension draining from his body even as he bears down with all his weight on the wound. “If there is a next time...”

“Hey,” Rick says sharply, jarring the Scot slightly. “You better believe there’ll be a next time. You don’t think I’m going to let you off for something as silly as a robbery, do you?”

Billy smiles wanly. “Would it help if I provide a doctor’s note?”

There are sirens in the distance, and Rick looks toward the door hopefully. “Nope, not good enough,” he says, glancing back at Billy. “I even sprung for chips.”

Billy’s fading now, eyes growing duller as he gaze goes distant.

“Hey,” Rick says again, willing the sirens to get there faster. “Chips. Gummy worms.” He jars Billy again. “Beer.”

This time, it doesn’t work and Billy’s eyes are still fluttering closed. His breathing is noisy and shallow, and Rick can feel the sluggish beat of Billy’s heart even as the blood soaks through his jacket. “So much for team bonding,” Billy murmurs softly as his eyes close and he goes very, very still.

“Hey,” Rick says yet again, and his throat is so tight he can hardly breathe. It was supposed to be a simple night in. A little time together. Friends sharing life.

Not death.

It couldn’t be like this.

“Billy,” he says, shaking him again, even as the sirens peaked and the red and blue lights danced through the windows. “Billy!”

-o-

As a spy, Rick’s used to a certain amount of control. Even as the new guy, he’s still a spy, which inherently puts him ahead of the curve as far as the ordinary person is considered. He knows how the world really works; he knows truths most people couldn’t imagine. He’s always taken that responsibility seriously, and he’s always acted accordingly. Because information is power.

All that information -- all that power -- does nothing for Rick now.

He’s still a spy, but that means nothing here.

As the cops flood in, he’s pulled away from Billy and it means absolutely nothing.

He protests, but he’s shoved against the counter as a cop spreads his legs and pats him down. Rick cranes his head, trying to see Billy. One of the cops is kneeling by and another calls for the paramedics.

Rick barely hears them when they ask for his ID, and Rick just gives them his wallet and tries to go back to Billy. There’s a pair of medics now, setting up next to Billy, and Rick tries to get closer but the cops get in his face.

“Sir,” one of them says. “I need you to answer some questions. Sir--”

Rick tries to move them aside, but someone puts a hand on his shoulder. He shrugs it off in futility.

“Sir,” the officer says again.

In the background, he can hear the clerk. The sounds of radios echo throughout the room, but Rick doesn’t care.

“Sir,” the officer says.

Rick almost lashes out in frustration. “He’s been shot!” he exclaims, surprised by the crack in his own voice. When he looks up to meet the cop’s eyes, he realizes he feels desperate as he sounds. “We were just getting some snacks...”

“I understand, sir,” the officer says patiently, a note of compassion in her voice now. “We just want to catch the person who did this.”

Rick’s eyes go to Billy again. The medics have position him on his back, cutting away his shirt. They apply a pressure bandage, strapping an oxygen mask over his pale face before setting up on IV.

Rick swallows painfully. “You don’t understand,” he says. “We’re--”

Spies? Coworkers? CIA?

None of that mattered here. Not now.

Grinding his teeth, he looks at the woman. “We’re friends,” he concludes. “Please.”

That’s all he is here.

Really, though, that’s all that matters.

The cop’s face softens, and she steps aside as Rick moves forward. He goes to his knees behind the medic, hesitating before he asks, “How is he?”

“Hard to say,” one of the medics replies. He looks at Rick. “You know him?”

Rick nods. “A friend,” he says. “We were going to watch a game tonight.”

The medic nods indifferent. “He got a name?”

Rick’s throat feels tight. A string of aliases and cover stories go through his head, but none of them are relevant here. “Billy Collins,” he says, the truth sounding foreign on his tongue.

“Age?”

Rick grinds his teeth together. “Mid-thirties,” he says, realizing he doesn’t even know.

“Any medical conditions we should know about?”

Rick shakes his head. He doesn’t know the details, of course. If he doesn’t know Billy’s age, then his medical history is going to be a zero. But he knows that the Agency vets its field agents fairly rigorously. If there were something serious in his record, Billy wouldn’t be cleared for active duty. “He’s healthy,” he replies. “This was just the wrong place at the wrong time.”

It’s a feeble excuse, and it feels wrong as he looks down at Billy again. The Scot is lifeless under the medical intervention -- helpless and small.

Wrong place; wrong time. Rick’s night in is a disaster.

The medic smiles politely. “Can’t control that,” he says, before reaching for the backboard. “Now, please -- we’ve got to work.”

Rick wants to stay; he wants to watch; he wants to help. But he’s just in the way, and he scoots back as they transfer Billy to a gurney and strap him down. The Scot doesn’t move, and Rick starts to follow as he’s wheeled out.

The cop stops him, though. “Sir, we need a statement.”

Hesitating, Rick watches as Billy disappears into the parking lot. “My friend--” he tries to explain.

“Sir,” the cop says. “I’m afraid this can’t wait.”

Because Rick’s a witness; he’s a victim. He’s just some guy on his way home from work. He can’t pull any strings to make this go away. He can’t scour the intel to create a profile. This is a robbery gone wrong. He’d seen the guy. This isn’t national security.

This is simple bad luck.

It’s almost shockingly mundane.

Numb, Rick hears the ambulance doors close and the sirens start to wail. He watches as the rig starts moving, heading out of the parking lot.

There’s nothing Rick can do.

He looks at the blood, all over the floor. He looks at the discarded case of beer and the damn bag of gummy worms.

And there’s just nothing.

-o-

It’s surprisingly mundane. Rick’s just lived through a robbery; he watched one of his best friends take a bullet to the chest; and Rick spends the next thirty minutes giving a statement on the curb of the convenience store near his house.

The cops are nice about it. They seem to be professional and thorough. He watches the team canvas the area, securing it and collecting evidence in little Ziploc baggies. It’s almost like watching a police procedural, only way less interesting.

This isn’t what he’s used to. He’s never around for the aftermath. They make a quick exit; they leave before things get mapped and charted. They are never there for procedure and documentation.

Rick has no choice this time. He has to answer the questions; he has to sign the forms. He has to sit there and watch as Billy’s blood grows cool and tacky on the floor, trying not to think how stupid it all is.

Because it is stupid. They were just getting some beer and some snacks. A quiet night in. Team bonding.

Instead, he’s got Billy’s blood on his hands and he doesn’t know what to do. This isn’t a mission. This is just life.

Billy’s his friend, though. He watched Billy get shot. He doesn’t know if Billy has family or friends he needs to contact. He doesn’t even know if Billy’s alive.

Rick doesn’t know anything.

There’s one default, though. There’s one thing he’s learned at his time with the CIA that still applies now, that will always apply. There’s just one thing he needs to do; one thing he can do.

Hands shaking, he wipes his fingers on his pants again before pulling out his phone. He scrolls past his mother’s number and skips over Adele’s. He pauses on Billy’s before selecting Michael’s.

Michael answers after the first ring. “I told you, Martinez, I’m not wasting my night off in your crummy apartment--”

Rick inhales raggedly. “It’s Billy,” he says, his voice faltering. “We stopped for snacks. There was a robbery...”

The words trail off, and Rick doesn’t know how to say it.

The tension shifts on the other end of the line. “What happened?”

“He just walked in at the wrong time,” Rick fumbles as he explains. He can still see the look of shock on Billy’s face; he can hear the gunshot.

“Rick, what happened?

“He was shot,” Rick blurts, because there’s no other way to say it. “They took him to the hospital--”

“Where are you?”

“Still at the convenience store,” Rick says. “I was going to head to the hospital--”

“We’ll meet you there,” Michael says with finality.

“But--”

“Just go to the hospital,” Michael orders. “And we’ll see you soon.”

The call disconnects, and Rick is left standing. But not quite alone.

At least, he won’t be soon.

With that small satisfaction, he pockets his phone and fishes out his keys and heads back to his car.

-o-

The drive to the hospital is blank. Rick’s limbs feels leaden, and he can barely feel the wheel beneath his hands as he drives numbly. The car is painfully slow, and every red light and stop sign is an interminable wait that Rick hardly knows how to understand.

When he pulls into the lot, he parks hastily, but when he gets out of his car, he’s not sure he wants to go in. It’s not in his nature to hide from the truth -- just the opposite, in fact -- but he still sees Billy’s pale face and all the blood.

Which is why he has to go in. Because this is Billy. This is about duty; it’s not about a mission.

This is friendship. The bonds of a team.

Swallowing hard, Rick goes inside. The quietly controlled bustle is somehow overwhelming, and he’s trying to get the attention of someone at the front desk when a voice stops him.

“Martinez.”

Rick glances over, and sees Michael and Casey approaching from the far side. Rick frowns. “How did you guys get here already?”

“Better question is, what took you so long?” Michael returns.

Casey looks more angry than normal. “Only Billy could manage to do something stupid enough to warrant my attention when I have far superior plans,” he says contrarily.

“It wasn’t his fault,” Rick finds himself explaining. “I mean, he didn’t even know--”

Michael’s face twists in a type of painful sympathy. “We know,” he says. “It’s just Billy’s kind of luck.”

“Which is to say, it’s no kind of luck at all,” Casey gripes.

Rick just shakes his head. “Have you heard anything?”

“He got redlined up to surgery,” Michael reports. “We were waiting for you before we went upstairs.”

“Does he have any family we need to call?” Rick asks.

“Billy lives in a crappy motel and got kicked out of his country,” Michael reminds him. “We’re sort of all he has.”

“His next of kin?” Rick asks.

“That would be me,” Michael says.

“We’re not kidding when we say no one else wants him,” Casey says.

This is sad to Rick, and he suddenly feels guilty that it took him this long to invite Billy over at all. He never thought about it before -- Billy, living alone in a motel room, away from any family or friends he may have had. Billy jokes about it, but the idea of never being able to go home, of being kicked out of his homeland -- it’s a lonely reality. Rick thinks about his family -- all his aunts and uncles and cousins. Even in his pain in the ass brothers.

And for Billy, the only people left were three CIA agents.

Michael jerks his head toward the stairs. “And you better believe we’ll fight to keep him,” he says. “Now let’s go see what we can find out.”

-o-

In the surgical waiting area, Michael takes the time to talk to the nurses while Casey scouts out the best seats. “We can see easily down the hallway and we’re not likely to have anyone sit next to us,” Casey assesses. “Plus, look at our magazine selection. It’s first rate.”

Rick furrows his brow, sitting down gingerly as he look to where Michael is at the desk. His expression is surprisingly earnest. At first, Rick’s not sure what to make of that, especially when the nurse squeezes his arm sympathetically.

He shakes his head. “What’s Michael doing?”

“We want updates on Billy,” Casey says, as a matter of fact. “Michael knows the pecking order at the hospital. If we want to incur favors, we need to make friends with the nurses.”

“He’s bribing them?” Rick asks.

Casey scoffs. “Billy’s the charmer but you’ll find Michael can be sufficiently appealing when he has the right incentive,” he says. “The man did get Fay Carson to marry him.”

Rick is still a little confused. “But--”

“But this is our team, Martinez,” Casey says tersely. “We may not hang out for beers on the game on Friday nights, but when it counts, we’ll pull out all the stops.”

Rick is processing that when Michael comes back over. His face is weary, but not quite grim as he takes the seat next to Rick.

“So?” Casey asks.

“Anna is going to give us personal updates every hour,” he reports with a sigh.

“Every hour?” Rick asks.

Michael’s expression turns a bit grim. “The bullet shattered one of his ribs,” he says. “Apparently it’s going to be a tricky surgery.”

The news turns Rick’s stomach.

Casey shifts, pursing his lips. “Like I said,” he mutters. “No kind of luck at all.”

“But he’s holding on,” Michael counters. “That’s something.”

Casey settles back at this, and Michael shows no signs of continuing.

At a loss, Rick looks from one to the other. “So what are we supposed to do?”

“What do you think?” Casey says, surly.

“We wait,” Michael tells him, less harshly. “For as long as it takes.”

“No matter the outcome,” Casey adds.

Rick wants to ask for more. He wants to demand answers. He wants a quick fix. He wants more.

There isn’t more, though. There’s just teammates in a waiting room, waiting and hoping for the best.

-o-

They wait.

The hours are long, but Anna is good to her word. She brings updates and snacks, offering as much encouragement as she can. The news is never great, but it’s never bad either, and Rick figures that’s better than nothing.

They wait.

Casey moves restlessly, mumbling the words to songs Rick can’t make out. Michael is stoic and unmoving, and he doesn’t check his watch; he barely even moves as the seconds tick torturously by.

They wait.

Rick thinks about how this started. He thinks about Billy’s gummy worms, and his seemingly undying optimism. Undying -- that doesn’t seem like the right word anymore, but Rick can hope. He has to hope.

They wait.

Michael breaks the silence, and tells Rick it’s going to be okay. They’ve been through worse. Casey snorts, and says that’s hardly any comparison. When Rick asks why, he expects them to deflect. This time, they don’t.

They wait.

Rick hears about past missions. He hears about a mission in Taiwan that nearly got Michael decapitated. He learns about a mission in Syria that nearly got Casey thrown in prison for a very long time. He listens to them delineate Billy’s first mission with the team, and just what a debacle it was.

They wait.

They talk about Casey’s time in a coma two years ago. They discuss the rehab for the bullet that went through Michael’s foot a year before that. They talk about the mission where Billy drowned in a swamp. But they all survived. They’re all still here.

They wait.

They wait together. They talk. They share. This is team bonding, Rick realizes. Casey’s right. It’s not about the beer or the game; it’s about being there when it matters. This time and all the times before. And all the times after.

They wait.

And that’s what matters.

-o-

When Anna misses her next check in, Rick starts to fear the worse. Michael has gone a little stiff next to him, and Casey’s stopped pacing and is now glaring down the hallway. Something has changed, and they all know it.

Rick’s willing to wait, but he’d be a liar if he said it was easy. He’s almost grateful when Michael looks like he’s about to get up to ask for an update, when suddenly a doctor appears.

She’s about Michael’s age, and she looks exhausted. She looks right at them, and Rick feels his heart sink.

Paralyzed, Rick doesn’t get to his feet when Michael does and he is still sitting in the chair when Casey follows him.

“Billy Collins,” Michael starts with no further preamble. “How is he?”

The doctor inhales slightly, and Rick’s heart falters for a moment. It can’t end like this. They can’t be a team and have it end like this. Rick can’t get everything he wants just to lose it here. In a hospital waiting room. Stateside. Over a pack of beer and gummy worms.

“It was a difficult surgery,” the doctor says, almost by way of confession. “But he pulled through.”

There’s more, and Rick knows it, but the sense of relief is almost intoxicating. He feels the tension drain out of him, and he sees Michael’s shoulders sag and Casey’s fists unclenched. This time, Rick’s on his feet, standing side by side with them and he’s the one who asks, “So how is he?”

The answer will probably be daunting, Rick knows that much. Billy could still be in critical condition; he could still die. He could be permanently impaired; he may have months of recovery.

But he’s alive.

He’s alive.

They’ll get through whatever come next -- together.

-o-

The doctor has a litany of news, most of it less than good. Billy’s condition is precarious, and they have to watch him closely to ensure they didn’t miss anything. He’s missing his spleen, and there’s still a chest tube in place, but they’re hopeful that none of the bone fragments got into his bloodstream.

As hopeful as they can be while Billy’s in the ICU ward, still breathing through a tube.

Michael is undaunted, however, and Casey is downright determined. Rick feels out of place at first when they crowd into the small cubicle, but when he sees Billy, he knows he’s in the right place.

Billy looks worse than Rick remembers, with his skin ashen under the lights. His hair is mussed more than normal, and the tube has been taped down around his mouth. His chest is partly covered with the blanket, but it’s easy to see the other tubes and wires. Billy’s hands are resting on top of the sheets, lifeless and pale. He’s still -- far too still -- and Rick tries to reconcile the image before him with the vibrant man he’d been talking to no more than half a day ago.

Michael has moved to Billy’s left side, and Casey takes up a place at the foot of the bed. That leaves Rick at the right, and they all stand their positions in perfect and unspoken unity. The monitor beeps; Billy’s chest rises and falls. There’s no telling how this will turn out, but they’ll be here to find out.

They’ll be here, any way it goes, until it’s done.

Because that’s what teams do.

-o-

They all do their part.

Michael is the leader, so he organizes the necessary details. He’s in contact with Langley, covering issues like insurance and sick leave. There’s no one for Casey to fight here, so he staves off the desolation instead, singing songs and always moving to pass the time. Rick’s the new guy, so sometimes he’s not sure what to do. He talks to the police and picks out the suspect from a photo. Mostly, he sits next to Billy’s bed and hopes for the best.

Believes in the best.

Hours come and go. The day passes and stretches to night again. “Come on, Billy,” Rick whispers at the bedside, watching the machines breathe for Billy. “We’re doing our part. Time for you to do yours.”

-o-

Maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Maybe it’s the constant supply of hospital food. Maybe it’s showering in the bathroom sink. Maybe it’s the incessant beeping of Billy’s heart monitor. But after several days, Rick feels his self control start to falter.

It’s been too long. The doctors have been optimistic, but they’re concerned, too. Billy’s hanging in there, but he should be making more progress. His recovery is stagnant, no better and no worse.

But it feels worse.

It feels like Rick’s still in that damn convenience store -- like he may never leave. When rounds come and go another day, Rick can’t take it anymore.

“He’s supposed to wake up,” he says, barely keeping his voice from hitching. He looks up at Michael and Casey. “He’s going to wake up, isn’t he?”

It sounds a little pathetic, but he feels a little pathetic, and at this point, he’s too tired to care. If he sounds like the scared and uncertain new guy, it’s because he is the scared and uncertain new guy. He’s been shot on the job, but this -- seeing a teammate so badly injured -- is new territory for him.

Michael doesn’t look perturbed by the question, and he’s surprisingly free of derision in his reply. “Of course he is.”

“More than that,” Casey adds, “he’s going to be fine.”

Rick sighs, looking back toward Billy, who is still unconscious and intubated. “How can you be sure?”

The doctors have still been optimistic, but the longer Billy stays unconscious, the more real the risks are. Billy’s heart never stopped, but there’s no way of knowing how well his brain was oxygenated or how well his body will respond during recovery. Mental impairments remain a fleeting possibility. Physical ones, even more so.

“He’s Billy,” Michael says.

“He’s unequivocally Billy,” Casey says.

Rick shakes his head, giving them a look. “What does that even mean?”

Michael sighs, as if he’s taking pity on Rick. “It means we know what the doctor says,” he says with shrug. “But we know Billy more.”

“So?” Rick asks.

“So,” Casey says pointedly. “He’s annoying and overly cheerful and incessantly distracting.”

Rick’s still waiting for more.

Michael rolls his eyes. “What he means to say is that Billy’s not about to check out on us this easily,” he says, glancing over at Billy’s unconscious form. “We know him well enough to be sure of that.”

Rick feels crestfallen. “But what’s taking him so long, then?”

Casey grunts at that. “This is Billy,” he reminds Rick. “He does everything in his own time.”

Michael nudges Rick gently. “Come on, you know this stuff,” he says. “Isn’t this all a part of team bonding? Learning about each other through good times and bad?”

Rick’s eyes linger on Billy again. “Yeah,” he says noncommittally. “I just...”

“Just nothing,” Casey says decidedly. “Give him time.”

“Give us time,” Michael amends. “Things usually work out.”

Rick can hope.

Eyes on Billy, Casey and Michael by his side, Rick has to hope.

-o-

It turns out, Michael and Casey are right.

Rick is half-dozing in the chair by Billy’s ICU bed when suddenly a monitor bleeps unexpectedly. Over the last week, he’s gotten pretty accustomed to the sounds and nuances of Billy’s room, and this one isn’t normal.

It isn’t right.

Startled, Rick jerks awake and looks, almost in panic, at Billy. The alarm blips again, and then there’s a gagging sound that makes Rick’s heart start to pound. He’s reaching for the call button when he finally looks at Billy.

Who happens to be awake.

Billy’s eyes are open and pointed at the ceiling. He looks confused and desperate as his chest hitched uncertainly and one of his hands flails, reaching up toward the tube.

It takes a long second more before Rick realizes what’s happening. Billy’s awake, and he’s trying to breathe on his own.

This is great news.

What’s not so great is that Billy’s also trying to rip out the ventilator.

Fumbling, Rick gets to his feet, grabbing Billy’s wrist and gently prying it away from the tube. For a moment, Billy struggles, but Rick positions himself above the Scotsman and tries to meet his eyes. “Hey,” he says. “Relax. Billy. You’re okay.”

Billy still looks panicked, and his blue eyes are bright with fear. His arm strains against Rick for a moment before his eyes slowly settle on Rick’s face and recognition dawns. At first, the Scot’s brow scrunches up as though he’s trying to remember, but Rick smiles, squeezing the other man’s wrist reassuringly.

“You’re going to be okay,” he says again, with more confidence this time.

Billy’s breathing has calmed again, but his eyes are imploring.

“We can talk about what happened when Michael and Casey show up,” he says.

Billy almost looks hopeful.

Rick grins, nodding. “Yeah, the team’s all here,” he says. “Not quite the quiet night in of team bonding I was hoping for but I think it’ll do.”

Billy nods slightly, and Rick knows this is better than the game or some beer or even some gummy worms. This is what team bonding is about. This is what he’s been looking for. He hates that Billy got shot, but he’ll never hate that they’ve been here for each other through it. They don’t need high stress missions or quiet nights in.

Really, in the end, they just need each other.

-o-

All good news aside, Billy’s recovery is slow. Once he’s awake and extubated, his condition is upgraded and the ODS reluctantly starts maintaining office duties as well, each taking turns with Billy during lunch and in the evenings. Billy’s usually exhausted when they visit, since he’s been subjected to a full round of physical therapy to try to regain his stamina from his wound.

Still, they develop an unspoken schedule, and when Billy is finally released from the hospital, they all turn up, no questions asked. Billy is walking stiffly, and he’s too skinny, but he cracks jokes as they load into the car. Michael drives, extra slowly with both hands on the wheel, and Casey sits in the front, glancing none-too-subtly in the back to check on Billy.

When they arrive at Billy’s motel room, Rick is hardly out of his seatbelt when Casey has Billy’s door open and Michael has come around, hovering while Billy levers himself out. Rick hurries ahead, and he has the door open by the time Billy shuffles inside.

And promptly stops.

“I should get shot more often,” he jokes, looking around at the place. “I’m sure the maid service would be grateful.”

With reason, too. Michael had wanted to make sure Billy had some food in the fridge when he got back, so Rick had come along. When they’d seen the place, they’d taken to cleaning it. When they didn’t show up at work after lunch, Casey found them and taken the mess of an apartment to task.

Hours later, the place had been scrubbed and restocked, ready for a warm welcome home.

Michael laughs. “Let’s not push it, okay?” he says, moving in and turning on a few more lights.

“And Martinez wonders why we don’t want to hang out with Billy in our free time,” Casey snipes, crossing the room to the kitchenette. He opens the fridge and retrieves a few beers. He’s scowling as he hands them out. “We’re lucky that we haven’t contracted some deadly parasite.”

Michael takes his beer and sits heavily on the couch. “I know we agree to risk life and limb for each other, but Malick’s right,” he says. “This is ridiculous.”

Billy walks gingerly forward, taking one of the beers and moving around to one of the chairs. “A few germs are healthy,” he says. “You could even say they’re preventative measures.”

Rick takes the last beer from Casey and finds his own spot on the couch while Casey pulls up a chair from the dining area. “That might be a compelling argument if you hadn’t just walked into a bullet at a convenience store,” Casey reminds him.

Sitting down, Billy makes a face. “Pure accident,” he says.

“Martinez didn’t get himself shot,” Michael points out, taking a quick swig. “Just you.”

“Well, it’s not really his fault,” Rick tries to interject.

Casey glares at him. “Since you’re the new guy, I’ll let that pass.”

Michael smirks. “Billy does have an interesting history of unfortunate accidents.”

“It’s called heroics,” Billy interjects.

“It’s called enough, mostly,” Michael says. “We can’t trust you by yourself anywhere.”

“Which is why we’re here tonight,” Casey says. “Because we’d like to give you a few months at least before your next disaster.”

Billy chuckles. “If those are the pretenses you need for a night of team bonding, then I will happily accept them,” he says. He looks at Rick. “Agreed?”

“Well, I’m not going to complain about a quiet night in,” Rick says. “But I don’t think it should be this hard to get us all together.”

“Of course you don’t,” Casey says. “You’re stupid and idealistic.”

“And you buy cheap beer,” Michael says, making a face.

Billy’s face brightens. “But those are not the important questions.”

“Oh?” Rick says. “And what is?”

Billy’s eyes twinkle. “There is just one. The most important question of all.” He pauses dramatically. “Who brought the gummy worms?”

Michael groans, and Casey shakes his head in apparent disgust. Rick finds himself laughing. “Yeah,” he says, nodding to the cupboard. “I picked up a bag.”

Billy claps his hands. “Wonderful!” he says. “Then what else could we possibly need?”

“Better beer,” Michael says.

“Better company,” Casey says.

But as Rick looks at his team, from Michael to Casey to Billy, he can’t think of anything he needs at all.

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: September 9th, 2013 04:27 pm (UTC)
I love the banality

I love the banality of the situation. They risk their lives in foreign outposts and yet, it was at home that they found danger and tragedy. I love the thought that Billy, of all of them, wanted to spend time with Rick. It didn't matter that it might be from a sense of his own loneliness, but that he was there when if you look at cruel fate, he would have been better off being "selfish" like the others. That's my Pollyanna take on it anyway. Hee!


Fave parts:

Rick’s eyes go to Billy again. The medics have position him on his back, cutting away his shirt. They apply a pressure bandage, strapping an oxygen mask over his pale face before setting up on IV.

Rick swallows painfully. “You don’t understand,” he says. “We’re--”

Spies? Coworkers? CIA?

None of that mattered here. Not now.

Grinding his teeth, he looks at the woman. “We’re friends,” he concludes. “Please.”

That’s all he is here.

Really, though, that’s all that matters.

-- I LOVE this because in their "civilian" mode, with no cover story, they are just friends and there's this sense of realization in this moment of admission by Rick.


He’s so transfixed with the blood that he doesn’t notice Billy is awake until the Scotsman croaks, “Did you get the gummy worms?”

Rick doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, he chokes a little, shrugging out of his jacket and balling it up with shaking hands as he pulls open the flaps to Billy’s jacket and sees the blood-soaked hole on the right side of Billy’s chest. “Enough to share,” he says, his throat tight as he presses down the jacket on the gushing wound.

Billy winces, struggling a bit in vain. His breathing catches, and his eyes are bright with pain. “Michael and Casey,” Billy says haltingly. “--don’t know what they’re missing.”

Rick laughs hoarsely, and he feels his eyes sting with tears. “Well, maybe next time they’ll come.”

“Aye,” Billy agrees, a little too fast. His eyelids are growing heavy, and Rick can feel the tension draining from his body even as he bears down with all his weight on the wound. “If there is a next time...”

“Hey,” Rick says sharply, jarring the Scot slightly. “You better believe there’ll be a next time. You don’t think I’m going to let you off for something as silly as a robbery, do you?”

Billy smiles wanly. “Would it help if I provide a doctor’s note?”

There are sirens in the distance, and Rick looks toward the door hopefully. “Nope, not good enough,” he says, glancing back at Billy. “I even sprung for chips.”

-- Of course you know why I LOVED this. HAHAHA I'm transparent that way.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 12th, 2013 01:20 am (UTC)
Re: I love the banality
billy bruised

I admit, I really liked writing this one. I enjoy hurting Billy in new ways and hurting him in a mundane setting was rather fun. LOL, I recommend it!

Thanks :)

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