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Chaos fic: Contingencies (1/1)

September 5th, 2013 (06:05 am)
contemplative
Tags: , ,

feeling: contemplative

Title: Contingencies

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: With thanks to sockie1000 for the beta.

Warnings: Lots of death and blood. Murder, suicide, torture -- you name it. But, none of it is real…

Spoilers: For everything! With touches of AU even if it’s all canon.

Summary: These are Michael’s curse. These are Michael’s salvation.



-o-

Michael plans for contingencies. He plans for everything. He has backup plans for his backup plans, because he knows what work they do. He knows that when things go wrong, they can go really wrong, and he doesn’t want to face that, not even a little.

So he works harder. He thinks more carefully. Because each mission has a thousand outcomes, and Michael’s not so concerned about getting it just right as long as it doesn’t go horribly wrong.

These are contingencies that keep him up.

(These are the nightmares that keep him from sleeping.)

These are Michael’s curse.

(These are Michael’s salvation.)

-o-

It’s a risk, but still a calculated one. Michael doesn’t want to admit it -- he won’t admit it, not for anything at this point -- but he thinks the kid has potential. He’s so green, though, that that sort of trust from day one will go to his head. No, Billy’s right about this kid. He has the heart of the hero.

Now it’s time to see if he has the guts.

Michael knows a thousand better ways to do this, but right now, this isn’t so much about the armed militants as it is watching the choices Martinez makes. Billy and Casey follow his lead, and Michael doesn’t move to save himself as his arm is wrenched forward and pressed hard on the ground.

“That guy just handed him a machete,” he says stupidly. “That can’t be good.”

He could pull out a piece of intel to make the militants reconsider. He could offer up a deal. He could suggest a higher ransom to throw his arm into the conclusion. Hell, one wink and Billy will start talking. A nod and Casey will be throwing punches.

But this is for Martinez.

The kid looks terrified.

He falters.

The machete comes down.

Michael screams -- for his hand, for the team he won’t have, for the contingency he thought he’d planned for.

The kid’s better than that, though. Just like Michael predicted, he pulls out all the stops. He doesn’t have much finesse -- saying he’s CIA is unconventional and risky -- but swallowing that scorpion is something Michael didn’t see coming.

Michael likes that. It’s not an uncontrollable element but it’s not a predictable one either. He thinks they can work with that. Martinez might just be one of them after all.

-o-

Michael has to admit, this isn’t how he wanted it to go. This entire mission has been one disaster after the other, each seemingly more preventable than the last. He should be open and shut, but the DOJ isn’t playing the game right and if there’s anything Michael hates, it’s not having the backup he counts on.

He also sort of hates smarmy self-righteous arms dealers who profit from death, but that’s probably to be expected.

Still, he’s not thrilled to be pulling out contingencies this far down the line. Not only has he been made, but Billy and Casey have too, which means Michael’s got one play left.

He gives Rick the best pep talk he can. When that fails, Billy takes a crack. He thinks, after Africa, it’s probably enough.

Probably.

Or not.

The seconds tick by. The minutes pass. When sirens sound in the distance, the pit of Michael’s stomach hollows out and he feels sick.

Billy chews his lip. “Coincidence?”

Casey’s expression is stark. “In our line of work.”

Michael can’t speak -- won’t speak. He’s breaks into a jog, moving around the building until he finds an obscured exterior window. The view’s pretty crappy, but it’s enough to make out the commotion.

At first, he fears the worst. He wasn’t joking when he said LaRouche could be armed. If Rick’s been injured...

But then he sees the kid. Being manhandled by a bodyguard and shoved into a chair. He’s got a cut on his face and he looks terrified.

The sirens are right outside now, and Michael understands. This is essentially a kidnapping. And Rick’s been caught, red handed. If kidnapping doesn’t stick, assault will. This mission’s been unsanctioned since they hit the States, and Higgins won’t stick his neck out for the new kid who double-crossed him.

Rick will be left out to dry. Even if a conviction doesn’t stick, he’ll never be a spy.

His career is over.

Michael closes his eyes.

Behind him, the bushes rustle. “Michael,” Casey hisses. “I assume you have a plan?”

Michael does. It’s not one he likes, but it’s the last contingency on his list. One he’d hoped never to use.

He turns back, looks at Casey, looks at Billy. It’s Rick--

Or it’s all of them.

He nods grimly. “Yeah,” he says somberly. “We cut and run.”

Billy’s mouth drops open. “But he’ll be arrested!”

“With grounds,” Michael says.

“But he’s just doing what we asked him to do,” Billy protests.

“And he always knew the consequences,” Michael snaps, more forcefully than he intends. “We can’t help him here, but I’ve got some friends in law enforcement.”

Casey closes his mouth.

Billy looks deflated.

“This is it, guys,” he says. “This is my last plan. Take it or leave it.”

With that, he walks away, sneaking into the night. Casey’s right behind him. Several seconds pass before Billy is, too.

LaRouche fights, but Rick fights harder. Whether it’s luck or skill, Michael doesn’t care. What matters is that Rick pulls it off, they get LaRouche to international waters and it’s another plan well executed.

-o-

It’s Russia. Michael always has extra contingencies in place for Russia.

The problem is, though, he’s had this thing wrong from the start. The entire thing was a set up, and he’s put his career on the line along with his team’s and Fay’s. As far as things go, it’s not looking good.

But Michael thinks, he can do this. They can get the briefcase, evade Russian Secret Service, cut out of town and make it home with enough gusto to assuage Higgins’ rightly-ruffled feathers.

The kicker is -- and this is what gets him -- is that it’s not even his fault when it goes to crap. No, it’s a bad phone number provided in the CIA’s cover packet. One wrong call, and Martinez is about to be questioned and detained, and once an operative goes missing in Russia, it’s pretty damn hard to get them out.

In short, they’re going to lose the kid.

Because of some pencil pusher back home.

Because Rick’s heart is too good for this job.

Because Michael didn’t check the numbers.

Because Michael took the bait on a mission he should have known better about.

Michael thinks of plans. Billy works his magic with the Russian spies. Casey rages with all he has.

It’s not enough. The call from Casey is almost frantic. “He’s gone.”

“What?” Michael asks.

“The kid is gone,” Casey repeats.

Michael shakes his head. “I don’t understand, I thought we had a plan.”

“We did,” Casey tells him tersely. “It failed.”

Michael sends Billy to help Casey while he chases down the briefcase. He comes back with enough to save his career and Fay’s, but Rick never makes the flight.

Higgins won’t lift a finger, but Michael goes back, Casey and Billy with him. Casey makes some threats. Michael cashes in a few favors. Billy sleeps with a few people. And they finally get a lead.

Still, it’s almost three years later that they buy the kid his freedom. But he’s not a kid anymore.

He’s sporting a full beard and his hair is long and pulled into a ponytail. His eye are hard, and he’s muscles are toned from hard labor. He looks at them each with cold disinterest. “Three years? And I wish I
had been eaten by wolves.”

But Casey’s angry enough and they’re just fast enough. Rick helps salvage the mission, and they all leave Russian soil betrothed and humbled, another lesson learned.

-o-

Michael doesn’t figure they can avoid French intelligence forever, but he’d sorted of hoped to make it longer than the first night. It’s not his fault there’s a bug in the embassy, but when he overplays his hand, it’s totally on him.

He thinks Luc will see reason, will be willing to compromise, so when the man puts them in cuffs and takes them away, it’s not exactly what he’d counted on. They spend hours in interrogation, and Michael realizes pretty fast that there’s no good way out.

He could deny, deny, deny. He could play his cards carefully.

Or he could know when he was beat.

He gives up his intelligence. He cooperates. He answers all the questions so his team doesn’t have to. He apologizes. He confesses. And French intelligence gets the press for arresting a world-wanted terrorist. More than that, they get to hold their nose up to Higgins, as Michael brings home his team with his tail between his legs.

“This is not the result I was looking for,” Higgins lectures him seriously.

“I know, sir,” Michael says, because snark will only make this worse.

“I hope you realize what you’ve cost this Agency,” Higgins continues.

“I think I’m about to,” Michael ventures guardedly.

Higgins smiles. “Yes,” he says. “I think you will.”

“I’ll tender my resignation,” Michael says with a steadying breath.

“I don’t want your resignation,” Higgins says slowly.

Michael hesitates.

“No, Operative Dorset,” Higgins says. “You’ve been working against me far too long. I’d like to see how effective you can be when we work together.”

Michael presses his lips together.

“For the sake of your team, of course,” Higgins says. “At Malick’s age, no other team will take him. Martinez has no experience to get him on another assignment, he’ll probably be let go. And Collins -- well, he’s not even a citizen.”

“Is this blackmail, sir?” Michael asks.

“No,” Higgins says. “It’s justice.”

But Michael is charming enough. Luc is too good at what he does to be a heartless bastard. They work together. Everyone wins.

And Michael’s never been so proud to share the victory in his life.

-o-

It’s easy to see all the possible complications coming with a mission to North Korea, which is why Michael is brazen enough to think he can pull it off. He doesn’t even back out when Mrs. Song insists on bringing her family, and he never stops to believe that there is a contingency he can’t compensate for.

Which is why it’s so annoying that it falls apart so predictably. They never make the checkpoint. They’re never cleared to cross into China. The guards catch sight of them, and they make a quick effort to run, but they’ve got civilians. They’ve got children.

It’s over before it starts.

Mrs. Song and her family are separate from the rest of them, and the last he hears from her is sobbing, apologizing again and again, saying she was kidnapped, that she didn’t know, that she’s so, so sorry.

His team is bound and transferred to what appears to be a secure governmental facility. The interrogation is rough but not quite cruel -- until the US government officially denies any involvement with their scheme, effectively leaving them to their own devices.

Then it goes from annoying to terrifying.

Michael’s not prone to theatrics, but he doesn’t much care for torture. He understands it, and he knows every method as it’s used against him. Physical measures are surprisingly ineffective, he decides. Even the prolonged psychological games are pretty easy to hold out against. Sleep deprivation bothers him, and he gets pretty damn tired of being jolted awake by the worst possible Chinese grunge music he’s ever heard.

But then, they bring Billy.

They’ve been separated for days (weeks?), and one look tells him that the Scot has been given the same treatment. He’s too skinny and his face is rough with facial hair. He’s bruised and there’s dried blood staining his now-ripped shirt. He’s shoved to his knees, and he lifts his head, eyes locking with Michael’s.

“Tell me what your purpose was,” the interrogator says. He raises a gun and holds it to the back of Billy’s head. “Tell me or he is going to die.”

Michael hesitates, considering the possible options. He thinks about the best lies, the best snippets of truth. He thinks about demanding a lawyer again and asking for a fast-tracked, if farcical trial, just to derail this moment. He thinks of a thousand things, and Billy’s eyes widen.

And then the gun goes off.

It’s grotesque and surreal, and the shock of it doesn’t register. He doesn’t understand. He didn’t even answer. They killed Billy before he even answered.

“Next time I expect an answer.”

When they bring Rick the next day, Michael tries lies.

When they bring Casey the day after that, he tries the truth.

When he’s finally given the trial, he’s found guilty within five minutes and he’s sentenced to death. At the firing squad, he only hopes he’s buried with his team.

They’re lucky, though. They evade the guards. They break their way through the checkpoint. They go home.

Michael brags about the mission in North Korea -- in and out, no mess at all -- but it’s still a mission that keeps him up, thinking about how bad it almost was.

-o-

Missions change, often before Michael has a chance to realize the implications of that change. One second, he’s chasing down a cell phone. The next, he’s helping keep a presidential candidate in the running to change her country’s future.

These things happen. They’re dramatic, but it’s all sort of another day at the office.

It keeps things interesting, though. All those new contingencies, coming up minute by minute.

He’s planning this one on the fly, and he thinks he has it made. Sofia casts her ballot. They’re ready to finish this up.

So he doesn’t expect the suicide bomber on the way back to the city. He knows he could have requested a faster extraction, but he wants to see this through. He’s gone too far with Sofia to not see her transferred back to a safe place.

It’s not a big deal, and Michael’s in the last car of the motorcade with the guys going back. Rick is beaming. Casey seems smug. Billy is singing to the radio.

None of them see it coming until it blows up the car in front of him, the shockwave sending them reeling, pitching into blackness.

He comes to a week later. He’s been critical for most of that, having taken a hard impact to the chest from the steering wheel. Casey is up and about after a cracked skull, and Rick is missing a leg below the knee. Billy’s in a coma with no signs of waking, his prognosis isn’t good.

Somehow, Sofia survived. She’d switched at the last minute to the lead car, throwing off the bomber who expected her to be flanked by her protection. She lost more followers, but they’re all lauded as heroes. Bloodied, battered, but damn lucky, Sofia is inaugurated the day Michael is released and they’re arranging to transfer Billy to long term care back in the States. Sofia gives a damn good speech about not backing down, about striving in the face of injustice, about how it’s worth it in the end.

Michael can only hope she’s right.

There’s no second bomb, though. At least, not after Michael scrambles their travel plans and insists on a faster extraction. Sofia is still inaugurated, and her speech is still pretty damn good.

His team still comes home in one piece.

That’s all Michael needs.

-o-

It’s a good contingency, and Michael’s pretty damn glad they thought of it. Rigging the wall to blow is their only hope in pulling Billy out of this mess alive -- because Michael suspected the German authorities would pull some kind of crap the instant they got involved. He should have known better, trusting Blanke with an actual role. He’d hoped Blanke could be more of a distraction while Adele smoothed things over, but he’s always known this was a possibility.

So they drive fast. They detonate the charges.

And that’s supposed to be that.

He’s accounted for everything -- the placement of the charges, the force of the blast, the layout of the interior of the building -- he’s controlled everything he can.

But he can’t control everything.

He has no way of knowing how close Billy is to the wall. In fact, it could all be dumb luck. A step further, a movement to the side -- might change everything. Might make the difference between walking away and being buried by the rubble.

They find Gallo pretty easy, and their mark is trying to get away. The right-hand man is down and out, and there’s no sign of Billy.

Casey starts digging, and Michael doesn’t waste much time in joining him. They’re pulling through the rubble and there’s not much, so it doesn’t take long to find him.

Michael sees his feet first, and Rick comes quick and unburies a hand. Casey lifts the slab over his torso, straining as he moves it clear.

To reveal Billy, staring sightlessly at the ceiling.

Rick chokes on a cry, and the denials catch in Michael’s throat. He’s at Billy’s chest to start CPR when Casey finally falls to his knees, but on the first compression, Michael knows it’s too late.

Billy’s chest has been crushed. His entire rib cage is malleable and shifted. There’s a growing puddle of blood, and there’s nothing they can do.

Billy’s dead.

Killed in the blast meant to save his life.

Ironic. Tragic. A failed contingency.

No matter what Michael calls it, the outcome is still the same.

Michael reduces the size of the charges, and listens for a moment before giving the go ahead. He waits until Billy’s voice retreats, just slightly and --

Billy comes out grinning.

It’s all in the details.

(Michael goes home grinning, too.)

-o-

Michael plans on many factors. He plans based on the mission. He plans based on assets. He plans based on operational goals. He plans on the weather, traffic conditions, and local populations. He plans on his team.

He knows his team, better than they think he does. He knows how carefully Billy hides how he feels, and he knows that everyone thinks of Billy as happy-go-lucky, but he can be the grumpiest one of the group. He knows Rick is truly idealistic, and there’s almost no deception in him, which is what makes him the biggest liability most of the time.

He knows Casey, too; he knows Casey is steady and predictable. He knows Casey is skilled and damn near flawless. He trusts Billy and Rick, but he would bet the house on Casey every single time.

But when they mount their rescue, they find Linda sobbing. “He locked me out! He won’t let me in!”

She’s hysterical, and Michael has to drag her away while Billy picks the lock. Rick bursts in when it gives, and Billy’s just a step behind. Michael all but drops Linda as he follows, but stops in the doorway.

The interior is a blood bath. There are bodies scattered everywhere, and the leader has a bullet between his eyes.

The problem is, so does Casey. From their positioning, it looks like they were the last men standing. They fired simultaneously.

“He did it to save me,” Linda says. “I tried to stop him -- I never thought -- he did it for me--”

Her voice trails off, but Michael’s stopped listening. He keeps looking at Casey, dead on the floor. He could have taken an easier out, but he chose to stay. It wasn’t the smartest choice, but it was the only one that guaranteed Linda an exit.

Michael never predicted that.

He knows Casey, almost 98% of the time, he can guess exactly what the other man will do.

The other two percent...

Michael knows better now.

Casey takes the smarter option. He loves Linda, maybe, but he’s pragmatic first. Or maybe he just trusts her to hold her own, just like old times.

Either way, when they mount their rescue, he’s not surprised to see Casey come out on top. When they go home, Casey takes a window seat and doesn’t look back at Linda, who is three rows back on the aisle, even if he wants to.

-o-

It’s nothing more than a typo.

Michael’s own typing is meticulous, and he’s never once -- not in his life -- transposed two names. He’s just not capable of such a mindless error.

(It was one of Fay’s complaints. All his emails, all his so-called love letters, they lacked soul. “You copy edited this, didn’t you?”)

He’s taken to spellchecking for Billy (because he can’t even use auto-correct right), and he’s learned to tone back Martinez’s insistence on being honest all the time. He doesn’t bother to read Casey’s anymore, because it’s too much fun to let Casey’s bare bones mission reports drive Higgins’ minions mad.

But he can’t do any of that when he’s not there. When he’s in the field, he has to rely on the work of others. It’s not a truth he likes, but it’s one he’s come to accept as best he can over the years. Usually it works out okay.

Sometimes, though--

Sometimes it’s a bad cover number in Russia.

Sometimes it’s the wrong name on a planted document.

Michael doesn’t know who made the mistake; he doesn’t know why.

He just knows it happened because someone wasn’t there to look twice, to go that extra mile just to be sure.

There’s no time to worry about that, though, when the stricken dictator pulls his gun and points it right at Michael.

“I do not know who you are, but if this document tells me my youngest son is a traitor, then I can trust no one,” he says.

Michael knows the feeling.

The man’s eyes go cold. “Starting with you.”

The first shot hits him in the head, and as his consciousness falters he hears Billy cry out. He’s falling, fast and heavy, and Billy catches him when another shot rings out and Billy’s voice abruptly stops.

Everything just
stops.

The typo works in their favor, though, and Michael doesn’t know why. There’s no real reason for it, in the end. The mission should have gone south; the mission should have been a disaster. The fact that it’s not should be something of a solace, but it’s not.

In truth, it keeps him awake at night, even after the accolades and the glory of it all. Because it’s a mission well done, but not by Michael’s hand, and he doesn’t like to think of his success as a matter of luck.

Because luck is fleeting; luck is variable.

He can’t plan on luck.

(He wonders, sometimes, if he can plan on anything at all.)

-o-

Michael’s always believed that if he’s good enough, he can make anything work. This confidence is essential, he tells himself. It makes him prideful, arrogant, paranoid, and difficult, but mostly it makes him damn good at what he does.

Failure is an unacceptable outcome.

Michael doesn’t fail.

He plans better. He works harder. He trains perfectly.

And he runs faster.

He pushes his legs as hard as he can in South America. He runs faster than he’s ever run before. He runs like his life depends on it, like Rick’s life depends on it, like the mission depends on it.

He’s exhausted and weary, and his legs feel like jelly as the doctor drives him back to the crash site. He half stumbles from the passenger’s seat, almost falling as he lurches forward the last distance, the doctor right on his heels.

But he stops short. Because Billy is leaned against the hood; Casey’s a short distance away in the dark, using his pocketknife to chip away vigorously at a piece of wood.

“Hey, I got the doctor,” Michael says.

Billy looks up, and Michael’s heart drops. Billy’s eyes are glassy and red; his cheeks are wet. His expression is nothing short of agony as he shakes his head.

Michael doesn’t know what to think. Michael basically stops thinking. Because that would mean--

It couldn’t mean--

He pushes toward the car, pulling open the back door with force.

And there’s Rick. He’s on his back now, splayed across the seat. He’s half-covered with a blanket, and his complexion is ghostly white. His eyes are closed. His chest is still.

It’s too late.

Michael ran as fast as he could; Michael did as much as he could.

It wasn’t enough.

Michael pushes himself harder still. When they get back to the crash site, Casey flags them down at the road. “About time,” he snaps. “You cut it kind of close.”

The doctor is moving past them to the car. “We made it, though, right?” Michael asks as he crosses the distance. The doctor has the door open and Michael looks inside.

Rick is unconscious, cradled in Billy’s arms. The Scot looks up at him, his face drawn. “We’ve done everything we can,” he says.

Michael holds his breath while the doctor checks Rick over. He nods. “I think we can do this,” he says. He looks at Michael. “But it will be a close thing.”

The chance is all Michael needs. He returns the nod, resolute. “Then let’s go.”

Because failure has never been an option.

(At least not one Michael will acknowledge.)

-o-

Some things are expendable. Michael knows that in the CIA, sometimes hard choices have to be made. Sometimes you can’t get everything, so you do the best you can.

Michael can’t save everything. Michael can’t fix everything. He has a God complex, but he sure as hell knows he’s not God.

His priority has always been his team. He wants to complete his mission, but protecting the integrity of his team always comes first.

Always.

By those standards, this mission is a success. Casey saves the day, and Rick and Billy take action quickly on the inside. They secure the facility, disarm the guards and take their arms dealer into custody. None of them have suffered more than a scratch.

But when they recover Blanke’s body -- a single shot, back of the head -- it doesn’t feel like success.

It’s not Michael fault. He didn’t do this.

(But he didn’t stop it either.)

No one shoots Blanke, but not for the lack of trying. Michael doesn’t like to think about the mission hinging on the idea that even criminals have consciences from time to time. He hates himself, but he always prioritized Blanke below his team, and when they’d taken Blanke out to be executed, Michael’s first feeling had been relief.

It’s not an easy thing, knowing he’d let one man die if it meant saving his team. It’s not something he’d readily admit to; it’s not even something he likes about himself even if he can’t change it.

(Even if he won’t.)

Still, when he finds Blanke alive -- scared and stupid and ready to help -- Michael feels relieved all over again. In fact, back in the States, he makes up an office for Blanke just because maybe almost dying in the line of duty entitles him a second chance. It’s a closet with a desk, but it’s the most Blanke’s had in years. Michael doesn’t say sorry for things that aren’t his fault -- at least, not in so many words.

He’ll let an office with no view do the talking for him.

-o-

It’s not an outcome Michael has considered. He planned from the start for Ray’s likely inability to keep pace on the mission. Ray was a good spy, but everyone passes their prime. There’s no real shame in that, just a long and slow disappointment, but Michael can’t judge him, because he still remembers the Ray that recruited him, that trained him, that awed him with his brilliance.

It could be him someday, but not today. Michael has the hospital covered. He has his team at strategic checkpoints. If one of them missing something, there’s still someone to back them up. And his team is well briefed and well prepared. They can do this.

They do.

But Michael doesn’t count on Higgins joining the fight. He doesn’t count on the older man to come out firing when it’s needed. He doesn’t think his boss has it in him. Higgins has been sitting behind a desk so long -- Michael’s always assumed.

It was an oversight.

A big one.

At Higgins’ funeral, Michael lingers after at the gravestone. He sighs, shaking his head. “Not much surprises me,” he says finally. “But you surprised me. I’m just sorry I didn’t see it sooner.”


It doesn’t come to that, though. Higgins’ gesture, while heroic, ultimately turns out okay. Everyone lives; everyone’s okay.

Michael takes Ray and the team out for drinks to celebrate. The next day, he tips his head when he passes Higgins in the hall, a subtle sign of respect, just because.

-o-

The minute he sees the footage, everything comes rushing back. It took them months to get over Carson -- months before Higgins finally coerced them into dropping all the wayward theories and possible alternative outcomes. Michael had always believed it was possible -- even likely -- that Simms was alive. He wouldn’t have stopped looking, except Casey and Billy would have followed him and lost their careers for it.

Sometimes he still wakes up, thinking about where Carson Simms really is. He sits, wide awake on his couch in the middle of the night, and goes over his notes, looking for a clue he’d missed, for a detail he’d failed to consider.

And now, here it is: proof of life.

Three years too late.

But now that he has it, nothing will stop Michael. No laws, no orders, no possible risks. He’s going to finish this -- no matter what.

Things go better than he expects, in all honesty. They find Salazar; they infiltrate his compound. And there’s Carson, bound and chained and very much alive.

Three years, Michael thinks. They smile and they joke and they hug, but three years. The fact that it’s earned him and his team arrest warrants seems like a small price to pay. Michael thinks he can fix that. Simms spent three years as a captive; Michael can handle a few weeks on the lam.

The team still takes it hard.

But Michael has a plan.

They have the plates. Now they just need Salazar. And Higgins will barter their freedom from there. It’s not easy to set up, but this is Michael’s area of expertise. He excuses himself from the motel room to make a few calls, and Doris goes out to meet a few local contacts to see what she can learn.

On his way back, he realizes how good it feels. To have Simms back; to know that they didn’t fail -- not completely. Three years is a long time, but Michael will take the win for exactly what it is.

He’s happier than he has been in years. The weight is lifting from his shoulders. He’s not a man down anymore. There’s no man left behind. The future is brighter than before. Everything, for once, is finally right with the world.

And then Michael opens the door.

He knows something is wrong -- the smallest shift in the air. His sense prickle; he’s reaching for his gun but then he freezes when he sees the large puddle of blood on the floor.

Casey is next to it, splayed face down on the floor. There’s a knife in his back, buried to the hilt, directly in the heart. He’s dead.

Michael swallows, and he feels himself start to shake. He has his gun out now as he carefully skirts around the body and makes his way to the other half of the suite. He opens the door cautiously, sweeping as he walks when he sees Billy.

The Scot is on the bed, laid out on his back, eyes blank and open at the ceiling. He’s covered in blood, and Michael can see over a dozen stab wounds over his arms and torso. One has cut open his stomach. Another slashed his neck.

The scene is so horrifying, that Michael almost forgets there’s another room until he hears the noise. Defenses raised again, Michael keeps walking, heading toward the bathroom.

The light is on, and Michael eases his way toward it, swinging open the door before going very, very still.

There’s Simms, holding Rick close to him, pressing the barrel of a gun to the kid’s head.

And then, Michael understands.

He was three years too late. Carson Simms didn’t die in North Africa, but no one rescued him either. The man who survived was incarcerated, chained and possibly tortured. He was kept captive, deprived of his basic rights. He may have been starved, he was intellectually unstimulated. He probably had no outside contact with the world, and he could have been kept in squalor living conditions from time to time.

Maybe he thought they’d come. Maybe the first weeks or months. Maybe even the first years.

Rescue didn’t come.

Simms didn’t die, but he would have been better off if he did.

They
all would have been better off if he did.

Because Simms isn’t going to forgive or forget. Simms is going to take revenge.

Maybe it’s psychological programming. Maybe it’s just a damn nervous breakdown -- hell, he’s entitled to that. Maybe the years turned the bitterness into rage until he just couldn’t control it anymore.

Simms killed Casey first, probably when he wasn’t looking. Casey never saw it coming, took the knife to the back from someone he thought was a friend. He probably killed Billy second, stabbing until the Scot finally stopped talking, stopped moving, stopped breathing.

And he left the kid for last.

He doesn’t know Rick, but he understands that he’s the replacement. Simms doesn’t want his team back, but he also doesn’t want to let them go.

Michael tightens his jaw. “He has nothing to do with this,” he says evenly. “He didn’t even know you existed.”

Simms’ mouth twisted into a sneer. “Go figure, huh?” he says. “You didn’t even tell him. You just wanted to pretend I never existed.”

“We thought you were dead,” Michael says.

“There was no body, Michael,” Carson snaps. “There was no body, and you gave up. You gave up on me.”

“I didn’t have a choice--”

“Like hell you didn’t!” Carson yells, his voice hitching. Rick stumbles as Carson shakes him slightly. “All our years together, you defied orders whenever you wanted to. And now you’re telling me the one time it mattered, you decided to toe the line?”

Michael works to keep his breathing even, trying not to look at the terrified glint in Rick’s eyes. “There were no leads.”

“Is that an admission of weakness?” Simms asks incredulously. “Are you saying the great Michael Dorset found a problem he could work out a contingency for?”

“I’m not perfect,” Michael says slowly.

Carson chuckles darkly. “I think I know that better than anyone.”

“I did what I could,” Michael tries to explain.

Carson shakes his head. “You didn’t do enough. Your life went on. Mine didn’t. You went home to your wife and your job and I suffered. Every day. Worse than the last. I thought you’d come. I told myself you’d come, but you didn’t. You didn’t,” he says. He waits for a second, nodding. “Say it.”

Michael’s face screws up. “Say what?”

“Admit it,” Simms says. “Admit that you failed.”

Michael’s throat tightens and his chest clenches. “Carson....”

Simms jerks Rick again, digging the gun into his head. Rick closes his eyes, stifling a sob. “Say it,” Carson hisses, his eyes gleaming as he stares down Michael unrelentingly. There’s only the faintest hint of the man Michael used to know, the one he’d failed. The person in his place is cold, hard, broken and deadly. “Or I put a bullet in his head right now.”

Rick squeaks, eyes fluttering as a tear tracks down his cheek. Michael closes his eyes. He sees Casey and Billy. He sees the explosion in North Africa. He opens his eyes and looks straight at Simms. “I failed,” he says. “I failed you in every way possible. I’m so sorry, Carson. You have no idea.”

Carson nods. “Good,” he says. “That’s good. But here’s the thing--”

“Carson--”

“You don’t know what sorry is,” he says. He grins. “Not yet--”

Michael’s eyes widen, because he understands. He has no doubts, no seconds thoughts. He knows what’s going to happen, and he knows he has one chance to stop it. There are no other options; no contingencies.

He raises his gun and doesn’t hesitate.

The shot is clean and accurate.

It’s also too late.

The gun against Rick’s head goes off, and the kid convulses once before he drop, heavy and lifeless to the ground. Simms is no more than a second behind, and the room is plunged into eerie silence.

Michael’s palms are sweating and his mouth is dry. The smell of blood is thick and metallic, and Michael can almost taste it.

Not death, though.

Failure.

The things he should have seen.

The things he should have done.

The things he just never did.

His team is gone. The mission is over. There’s nothing left.

Horrified, Michael looks at the gun in his hand. His mind is blank now, all his planning done. He barely even realizes what he’s doing as he lifts the gun, barely even feels it as he puts the barrel in his mouth.

He’s crying, but he can’t feel it. He’s shaking, but he can’t stop. He gives into a sob, squeezing his eyes shut as he remembers everything. Rick’s first day; Billy’s first mission. Casey’s interview with the team; Higgins giving him a promotion. Carson slapping him on the back, saying, “I knew it always was going to be you.”

He opens his eyes, the thoughts dissipating. He keeps his eyes wide open as he pulls the trigger, until the very end. Just like they have been since the start.

If only it had been enough.

Three years is too long but not that long. Simms forgives but he doesn’t forget. He leaves them high and dry for two months, but Michael took three years, so he figures he’s still getting the better end of that stick.

It all works out in the end, just like it always does

-o-

Someday, Michael may run out of contingencies. Someday, Michael may not be able to plan enough escape routes. Someday, Michael may have to face the inevitable truth about what they do and accept that he’s human, just like everyone else in this world.

At least this way, though, Michael will see it coming.

That’s what keeps him sane.

(That’s what makes him crazy.)

At this point, that’s really all there is.

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: September 9th, 2013 04:17 pm (UTC)
Major intense!

This was amazing and intense. All of the things that could have gone wrong, but didn't, it was like a roller coaster ride of emotions. I loved that you covered each episode! It was delightful to relive them as well. There were some delightfully (? - hee) brutal and bloody "ends" here and of course, I enjoyed them all. It's hard to pick which one I like the most. I guess that's no surprise in some ways, but I did have a couple that really blew me away.


Fave parts:

Simms killed Casey first, probably when he wasn’t looking. Casey never saw it coming, took the knife to the back from someone he thought was a friend. He probably killed Billy second, stabbing until the Scot finally stopped talking, stopped moving, stopped breathing.

--WOW! Such brutality upon Billy!!! This hurt so much to imagine, Billy struggling and then going still...I loved that you emphasized the characteristics that make Billy who he is being ceased in his death, talking, moving then breathing.

Michael sees his feet first, and Rick comes quick and unburies a hand. Casey lifts the slab over his torso, straining as he moves it clear.

To reveal Billy, staring sightlessly at the ceiling.

Rick chokes on a cry, and the denials catch in Michael’s throat. He’s at Billy’s chest to start CPR when Casey finally falls to his knees, but on the first compression, Michael knows it’s too late.

Billy’s chest has been crushed. His entire rib cage is malleable and shifted. There’s a growing puddle of blood, and there’s nothing they can do.

Billy’s dead.

Killed in the blast meant to save his life.

Ironic. Tragic. A failed contingency.

--*SOB! A wordless Billy death that spoke volumes.

Another very lovely read!





Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 12th, 2013 01:21 am (UTC)
Re: Major intense!
billy thinks

I did a fic like this for SPN once, and the concept was so much fun that I gave it a go for Chaos. It lets you go as dark as you want and it all still turns out okay :) Right up your alley!

Thanks :)

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