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Chaos fic: The Elephant in the Room (2/7)

September 16th, 2013 (06:12 am)

feeling: working

Previous parts and notes in the MASTER POST.


When Casey comes back out, he doesn’t look pleased. “He’s out like a light,” he remarks, sitting down in his chair.

“The dose I gave him should be good until morning,” Michael says.

“He’s not going to be happy,” Casey says, sounding oddly bothered by that.

Michael clearly has no way of countering that. “He’ll have a chance to recover, though,” he says. “You ready to head out?”

Casey nods. “Just give me five minutes.”

“Good,” Michael says. “I want us on the road in ten.”

Casey gets up, and Michael moves to follow but Rick shakes his head. “What about me?” he asks.

Casey pauses, but Michael gives him a look and he keeps on moving back toward the other room where their packs have been stowed. Michael looks back at him cautiously, and Rick’s stomach drops.

“I meant what I said,” Michael explains. “This is a two-person job.”

Two person, as in Michael and Casey.

As in, his team is leaving him behind.

They dragged him out of his apartment, ruined his chances with Fay, just to leave him behind.

Rick shakes his head. “It’ll work better with three,” he says. Pleading will have no effect. Logic, though -- logic just might give Rick a chance.

Michael doesn’t hesitate. “What about Billy?”

“What about Billy?” Rick asks. “He’s safe here. It’s not like Jonah’s going to let anyone in.”

Something shift subtly in Michael’s expression, and then he shakes his head. “Decision’s been made, Martinez.”

It’s not quite an order -- it’s a simple declaration. Michael is telling Rick how it is, as if Rick’s not supposed to question it at all.

Rick’s been trained to follow a chain of command; he believe wholly in giving up himself for the greater good, no matter what that may be. But if there’s anything he’s learned from his time with the ODS, it’s that following orders doesn’t get him very far.

Obstinate, Rick holds his ground. “Fine, two people,” he says. “Me and you. Or me and Casey. I’m not picky.”

It’s a bold sentiment, but Michael hardly seems fazed. In fact, if anything he seems amused in the most condescending fashion imaginable. “How do you think that’s going to go?”

Rick squares his shoulders. “This is my job.”

“We’re all spies.”

“You dragged me from my apartment, after hours, for this,” Rick insists. “I should be out there.”

“I dragged you from your apartment, after hours, because you were trying to sleep with my wife.”


Michael lifts his eyebrows. “You’re not helping your case.”

Rick breathes in hard, working to control all his conflicting emotions. “I can do this,” he says, employing all his earnestness now. “If this is about you not trusting me--”

Michael doesn’t let him finish. “Malick’s with me,” he says unyieldingly. “You’re with Billy.”

Indignation burns in Rick’s cheeks.

Michael keeps going. “This is a week long mission, but I’m hoping we can pull it off in five days,” he continues. “Our phone access is going to be spotty, but we’ll do nightly check ins on the SAT phone and Jonah’s communication system.”

Rick swallows bitterly. “And what am I supposed to do?”

“Keep Jonah calm -- see if he knows anything else,” Michael suggests. “But mostly, keep Billy from doing something stupid.”

“And if he wants to follow you?” Rick prompts.

Michael holds Rick’s gaze. “Then stop him.”

“How?” Rick persists.

Michael smiles a little. “You’re a trained operative, figure it out,” he says, finally getting to his feet. He pauses. “Though I got to say, I think you may have the harder job.”

Rick works his jaw, not sure what to do. Not sure what to say. “You can trust me, Michael,” he blurts finally.

In the doorway, Michael pauses, looking back. “We’ll see about that.”


When they leave, Rick doesn’t say goodbye. He stays stubbornly at the table, arms crossed petulantly over his chest. He knows it’s silly -- he also knows it’s pointless -- but he feels like he needs to make it clear just how much he disagrees.

He sits there at the table after they leave because, in all honesty, he doesn’t have anything better to do. He’s still sulking when Jonah finally comes back out.

The asset gives Rick a curious look. “They gone?”

Rick glares. “Yes.”

“So you’re staying?” Jonah asks.

Rick keeps glaring.

Jonah chuckles. “Seems like that’s not the way you wanted it to go.”

“I should be out there,” Rick says. “This is my job.”

Jonah pours himself a glass of water. “I know how you feel, dude,” he says. “That’s how I feel every time I talk to Michael.”

Rick frowns, looking at the other man again, critically this time. “Why do you keep helping him, then?” he asks. “I mean, if you don’t trust the government...”

Jonah shrugs. “Michael’s different,” he says. “I hate him and I don’t trust him with much, but I trust him to do the right thing.”

Inexplicably, Rick feels like scowling.

“Besides,” Jonah says. “How do you think I was able to build a remote compound in a foreign country with that much security?”

“Wait, Michael…?”

“He makes good,” Jonah says. “Even if he is a lying, conniving bastard.”

This time, Rick finds himself speechless. Uselessly, he looks at his hands and tries not to think about how he has to spend the next five days here.

Five days of doing nothing while Michael and Casey complete the mission.

Rick hates them even more.

Noisily, he pushes his chair back and gets to his feet. “I’m going to bed.”

Jonah looks surprised. “You want me to have first watch, then?”

Rick makes a face. “You live here alone,” he says. “Who would you normally trade watches with?”

“No one,” Jonah says. “But normally I don’t have two CIA operatives crashed in my place. You guys are nothing but trouble.”

“I thought you said Michael made good,” Rick replies.

“Sure,” Jonah says. “After he almost gets you killed and systematically destroys everything that matters to you.”

Rick can’t deny that he may have a point there.

“So someone is taking watch,” Jonah says. Then he shrugs. “I’m fine for it, though. I’m actually about to start a new game of Minecraft.”

Rick tilts his head. “If you’re playing video games, how are you on watch?”

Jonah looks disgusted. “You have no concept.”

“Um, okay,” Rick says. “In a few hours, Billy’s going to need another bandage change.”

“Check that,” Jonah says with a nod.

“Wait, you’re volunteering to do that, too?” Rick asks, skeptical.

“I saw the cleaning job you guys did last time,” Jonah says. “There were traces of human DNA all over the sink. You didn’t use the bleach, did you?”


“That’s what I thought,” Jonah says. “Look, I don’t want you here. I don’t want Billy here. I really don’t want anyone bleeding here. But since this is all apparently inevitable, I’m going to deal with it my way, okay?”

Rick feels like he should object to this. “But do you know anything about first aid?” he asks.

“I live alone in the Cambodian rainforest,” Jonah says. “Of course I do. Anyway, all that stuff is online.”

Rick shakes his head. “Just wake me up--”

“You don’t trust me?” Jonah asks.

“Well, you don’t trust us,” Rick points out.

“Which is exactly why you should trust me,” Jonah replies. “I mean, it’s simple logic. You can trust me to not trust you.”

“I don’t see--”

“If I don’t want living CIA operatives in my house, why would I want dead ones?” Jonah says finally. “I can handle it. If there’s a problem, I will wake you up. Because I don’t like problems. At all. Even a little.”

Rick sighs. “Yeah,” he says. “I’m going to go to bed.”

“The offer for Minecraft is still available,” Jonah offers, as if it’s tempting.

Rick manages a faint smile before he goes into the living room. Because he’s not going to waste his breath arguing with Jonah. He’s already given everything he had with Michael and it’s not enough. With Jonah, it’s just not even worth it. Maybe things will be different in the morning. Maybe Rick will find some silver lining.

For now, however, Rick’s going to sleep.

Because he literally has nothing better to do.


That night, Rick dreams of telling his mother he joined the CIA. He remembers the soft noise of dismay she’d made, because she’d thought she was going to lose her precious baby boy.

Rick had deflected, promising her he’d be okay. And even if he wasn’t, it’d be worth it.

Because Rick’s a patriot. Rick’s fighting for his country. Rick does what’s needed.

Then an elephant trumpets, pounding down the walls of his mother’s kitchen and trampling over everything.

On the outside, Billy and Casey and Michael are standing there, laughing. “Trust can be earned, kid.”

Rick’s about to ask how, when the elephant trumpets again. Rick turns, eyes wide as it comes bearing down on him.

And he wakes with a start.

Panting, he stares at the ceiling for a moment, getting his bearings. He’s at Jonah’s house, deep in the rainforest. Billy’s laid up with a stab wound; Michael and Casey are finishing the mission.

And Rick is still here.

Doing nothing.

Groaning, Rick puts the pillow over his face and goes back to sleep.


When he awakens again, it’s morning. His back hurts from sleeping on the floor -- Jonah only has one spare bed and he apparently doesn’t believe in couches -- but he actually feels decently rested. Not that it’s done much to improve his mood. He still feels frustrated and angry and very much like he’s gotten the short end of the stick.

And he has. He has in every way possible. Ever since he showed up at the CIA, he’s been used and abused and generally treated like his rights and wants and needs don’t matter. He’s always been willing to give himself up to the greater good, but he just feels like a pawn among all the bigger forces around him. The ODS does good work -- and Rick likes being a part of that.

But he’d prefer actually being a part of that. In action, not just word. Higgins thinks the ODS is a problem, and they are, but not for the reasons Higgins thinks. The ODS is a problem because they’re so damn good at what they do that no one can stand a chance against them. Which is fine, when it’s the bad guys. Not so great when you’re their teammate.

Sulking, Rick makes his way to the kitchen and finds Jonah at the table, laptop propped open in front of him. He’s got a can of Cambodian energy drink next to him and he’s using one hand to tip it back while he clicks madly with the other.

Rick sits at the table and stares.

Jonah doesn’t look up. “Nice sleep?”

“I slept on the floor,” Rick reminds him.

Jonah shrugs indifferently.

Rick rolls his eyes -- not that Jonah notices.

After a few awkward moments of silence, Jonah gestures with one hand over his shoulder. “There are food packets in the cupboard,” he says. “I’m not sure there’s much that tastes like breakfast, but if you’re hungry enough, it’ll do.”

Glancing over to the minimalistic row of cupboards, Rick doesn’t feel particularly encouraged.

“And they’re alphabetized,” Jonah adds. “Newest ones on the top shelf, so stick to the lower. Oh, and please leave everything that starts with G.”


Jonah looks up. “It’s my favorite letter. I save G meals for Tuesdays.”

Of course. Michael has left him with a psychotic, paranoid and obsessive-compulsive asset. “No thanks,” Rick finally replies. “Maybe just some coffee.”

“I don’t have coffee,” Jonah says, still clicking away.

Rick raises his eyebrows. “Tea?”

Jonah shakes his head. “That stuff is all locally made around here,” he says. “I don’t trust it. Too much of the legitimate stuff is still funded by cartels. It’s like having blood in your coffee. I can’t stomach it.”

“So what do you drink?” Rick asks, feeling incredulous.

Jonah lifts his can. “This stuff is amazing.”

“You won’t drink coffee, but you drink an energy drink?”

“Imported,” Jonah says. “I did research on its production plant in China. It’s not exactly reputable but they’ve past all safety standards. It’s my one indulgence.”

Rick slumps.

“Or you can have water,” Jonah offers.

Since this mission just keeps getting better. He wonders what Fay is doing. Rick’s only been gone a few days, but she could have coupled up with someone else. Someone not so stupid as to believe everything her ex-husband says.

Rick is pining. He’s also moping. Not without cause, but he still feels a little sheepish. Trying to perk himself up, he turns his attention back to Jonah. “Hey, what about shift change?”

“Huh?” Jonah asks.

“You said you were taking first shift,” Rick remembers. “So what happened to second shift.”

“Oh,” Jonah says, flitting his chin dismissively. “I was never going to wake you up. I try not to touch people and I never speak out loud when the lights are off.”

There is surely a response to that, but everything Rick can think of is overtly offensive or implying so. He opts to shut his mouth instead.

“And really, I don’t sleep,” Jonah continues. “I think my body is capable of REM sleep while playing the game. And have I mentioned how awesome this drink is?”

“Right,” Rick says slowly. He resettles himself in the chair and glances over his shoulder. “Did you check on Billy?”

“I did,” he says. “Exactly three hours after you went to bed, in case you’re wondering. The dirty bandages have been incinerated and the entire area was cleaned with bleach.”

“The wound?” Rick asks worriedly.

Jonah rolls his eyes. “The floor and the sink. And the chair and possibly the doors and all the handles. Bleach in the wound would be painful -- though I doubt he would have woken up. Guy was out like a light. Didn’t even twitch, which made it a lot easier than I thought it’d be.”

It’s a little unexpected. Jonah was not thrilled about the idea of blood last night, so the idea of him playing nursemaid doesn’t totally make sense. “He’s okay, though?” Rick asks.

At that, Jonah glances up. “I was thorough and efficient,” he reports. “It was damn near textbook. At least, it would be if textbooks were at all relevant anymore.”

Rick’s still not convinced. He’s not happy about being made to stay behind, but if he only has one job -- to make sure Billy’s okay -- it seems like he should do it. Getting up, he goes back toward the spare room.

“Good for you, man,” Jonah says. “Never take someone’s word for it. I respect that.”

Rick clenches his teeth to hold his tongue, cracking the door open to Billy’s room instead. Inside, it’s dim. He can see Billy on the bed, still fully dressed with his stocking feet hanging off the end of the sparse bed. He’s been covered with a thin blanket, and he’s clearly still sleeping, eyes closed and mouth open. From a distance, it looks peaceful.

That’s for the best, Rick knows. Really, he’d rather have the Scotsman awake -- it’d make the morning more tolerable. Billy’s as ridiculous as the rest of the ODS, but he’s sort of fun -- even when he’s lying through his teeth, the guy’s likeable.

At this point, Rick needs anything he can get to make this bearable.

But Billy’s been stabbed, and Rick pissed off and annoyed, but he still knows that’s what this is about to some degree. Yes, it’s about the fact that his team uses him however they see fit, but Billy didn’t get stabbed on purpose.

Rick thinks, anyway.

Frowning, he closes the door.

At the table, Jonah looks at him. “See?”

Rick sighs. It’s going to be a long mission.


The hours drag.

Rick finally eats something -- he’s not sure what, and he’s not sure he wants to know -- and then Jonah consents to let him take a shower. After that, Rick shaves and repacks his clothes, mostly out of spite. Casey is incredibly efficient at packing.

He’s bored enough that he repacks Billy pack -- which is nothing short of chaos -- and then he walks through the house before finding himself sitting back at the kitchen table. Jonah isn’t there this time; he’d shifted back to his bedroom earlier and explicitly told Rick that he was not to enter under any circumstances, barring death or imminent peril.

He’d then clarified what imminent peril entailed -- for ten minutes.

Rick’s pretty sure he’d rather die than bother Jonah.

And really, he’d actually look forward to imminent peril at this point. Because at least then he’d be doing something.

Sighing, he stares at the wall. Without any windows, the place is strangely claustrophobic, and the monotonous gray interior makes him feel like the walls are closing in.

He can’t help but think about Michael and Casey. Checking his watch, he knows they must be at their destination by now. They’ve probably already made introductions and started their search. He wonders idly if they still feel that thrill -- that rush of excitement being undercover. Rick’s only felt it once -- and it had been more than enough to make him want more.

That’s why he’d told Higgins that there was nothing to report about the ODS. That’s why he’d walked out on Fay right when he’d gotten somewhere with her. Not because the ODS was a team above reproach. Not because he even liked them.

But because Rick wants to be a spy. With every fiber of his being, this is what he wants. He craves it. Needs it.

If he’s not a spy, he doesn’t know what he is.

Well, yes he does. He’s nobody.

He’s an idiot, sitting in a stranger’s house in the middle of nowhere, doing nothing.

Rick sighs again.


By midday, Jonah has relocated to the living room. Around lunch, he makes a few dinners, offering one to Rick before starting in on one himself.

Rick watches him. “So, what do you do exactly?”

Jonah pauses long enough to look at Rick. “What do you mean?”

Rick nods around. “Here,” he says. “I mean, you have to do something.”

“I’m not sure I understand your implications,” Jonah says.

“You have to earn money somehow,” he says.

Jonah regards him carefully. “Michael really hasn’t told you anything, has he?”

Rick scowls.

“The man is more paranoid than I am,” Jonah continues with a small chuckle.

“When we get back, I can just look it up in the file,” Rick points out.

“No, you can’t,” Jonah says. “My file is redacted. Heavily.”

Rick sighs. “Come on.”

Jonah sighs back. “Fine,” he says. “Since you’ve already contaminated my place, I suppose I can tell you the basics. I’m a hacker.”

Rick waits for more.

“I would think someone of your generation would be moderately more impressed,” Jonah says sullenly.

“Like one of the Anonymous hackers?” Rick clarifies.

“I don’t have that much purpose,” Jonah says. “I don’t hack for causes. I just hack. When I find something worthwhile, I can usually sell it.”

Rick can’t stop himself from making a face. “And Michael trusts you?”

“More than he trusts you, apparently,” Jonah says snidely.

It’s a low blow. Unfortunately, Rick wonders if it’s true.

“And Michael knows I don’t sell the stuff that matters,” Jonah says. “At least, not to anyone but him.”

“So you’ve bought his trust,” Rick concludes.

“Whatever works,” Jonah agrees.

“That’s just…wrong,” Rick says, feeling indignant.

“That’s just life in the shadows,” Jonah tells him. He wrinkles his nose. “Listen to me. Now I sound like a spy.” He shakes his head. “I got to get Michael out of my hair, man. And soon.

“Well, I’d be happy to leave as soon as I can,” Rick offers.

Jonah smirks. “Then my hospitality is doing the trick.”

It doesn’t warrant a response. Nothing warrants a response. Rick is stupid and useless, and he’s stuck with a paranoid hacker who knows Michael Dorset better than Rick does. Which makes him feel stupider and more useless.

Finally, he pushes his half-eaten lunch aside. “Shouldn’t Billy be up by now?”

Jonah goes back to eating contentedly. “I don’t know.”

Rick checks his watch again. “He’s been out over 12 hours.”

“Michael does favor heavy sedatives,” Jonah says. “If you’re going to put someone out, you may as well do it right.”

Rick looks up, head cocked. “What?”

“What?” Jonah asks. “He hasn’t told you that?”

Rick opens his mouth but when no words come to mind, he has to close it again, trying not to fume. He sort of hates Jonah, but not as much as he hates Michael.

Pushing his chair back, Rick gets to his feet. “I’m going to go check on him,” he says. “He probably needs a bandage change anyway.”

“Fine,” Jonah says after him. “But remember the bleach!”


It’s saying something that Rick feels relieved when he gets into the spare room. Not that it’s reassuring to see a wounded teammate, but Jonah is driving him nuts and the lack of something meaningful to do is only driving home the point that he’s been deemed superfluous for this mission.

Rick will do the grunt work. Rick will put in the hours. Rick will tolerate anything -- except superfluity. He didn’t join the Agency for accolades, but he did join it to make a difference.

Shoulders sagging, Rick lets his proud facade fall. So much for any of that.

Feeling dejected, this time he crosses the room. “Billy,” he says, voice low. “Hey, Billy.”

He expects the Scot to open his eyes and say something ridiculous. But Billy doesn’t even twitch.

Frowning, Rick hesitates. He knows Billy’s injured, but the man is still a capable spy. He doesn’t imagine anyone in the ODS is caught off guard often and the idea that Rick is able to walk right up to Billy without the other man noticing suggests that something is more than a little wrong.

All things considered, Rick knows Billy needs to rest, but Billy’s silence isn’t normal.

Still, Rick chews his lips, watching a moment longer. He can see the rise and fall of Billy’s chest, hearing the slight puffs of breath as they pass through his open lips. The Scot’s skin is pale in the wan light, but Rick can still see hints of color in his cheeks. Somehow, that doesn’t help much, though. If anything, the entire tableau makes Billy look strangely gaunt.

Then Rick notices the fine sheen of sweat starting to collect near Billy’s hairline.

“Billy?” he tries again. “Can you hear me?”

When there’s no reply again, Rick reaches out, hand making contact with Billy’s shoulder only to pull back abruptly. Because Billy’s skin isn’t just warm -- it’s on fire. Shocked, Rick moves his hand to Billy’s forehead, laying the palm across the skin. His stomach flips uncertainly at the unrelenting burn of a fever.

Billy’s not just injured anymore. Billy’s sick.

Rick pulls his hand away, and looks at the older operative again. Billy’s really sick.

And Rick doesn’t know what to do.


Rick doesn’t know what to do partly because he doesn’t know what happened. Billy was fine last night -- injured but with no obvious signs of distressed. He’d been drugged and that had been the last Rick had known.

His chest is tight when he storms out of the bedroom. Jonah is still at the table, engrossed at his computer. “What did you do?” Rick demands.

Jonah doesn’t look up. “You’re going to have to be more specific,” he says. “I do a lot of things. This is my house, after all, in case you’ve forgotten where you invited yourselves in here.”

Rick’s anxiety is too high to tolerate the chitchat. He shakes his head. “What did you do to Billy?”

Jonah scoffs. “I told you, I cleaned the wound, changed the bandage and bleached everything.”

Rick crosses the room, slamming the laptop shut. Jonah starts to protest, but Rick refuses to yield. “Billy’s got a fever,” he says. “A bad one. So I’m asking you, what did you do?”

The look on Jonah’s face is one of genuine concern. “Nothing,” he says. “You asked me to change the bandage and make sure it was clean. So I did.”

Rick’s anger starts to abate.

Jonah shrugs, gesturing with one hand. “And then I even took the time to stitch it up--”

Just like that, Rick’s stomach goes cold and his heart skips a beat. “You what?”

“I stitched,” Jonah says, as if it’s the most obvious answer in the world. “I mean, last I checked, gaping wounds in the flesh are generally a bad thing.”

It’s suddenly getting harder to breathe, and Rick’s chest feels unusually tight. His head spins a little, and he turns abruptly, going back into the bedroom and returning to Billy’s side. He hears Jonah’s footsteps behind him, but he doesn’t look back. Instead, he pulls back the sheet of Billy’s bed and lifts the t-shirt.

“But I sterilized everything,” Jonah continues, sounding a bit defensive now.

Frantic, his fingers tremble as he works with the bandage, gently but swiftly starting to pull it loose.

“He was fine,” Jonah says, insistent. “He didn’t even feel it.”

Rick pulls the bandage away, and his heart sinks. “You leave the wound open,” he says, the words feeling wooden in his mouth. “A wound like this needs to drain. If you close it up, it can get infected and abscess.”

Jonah draws closer, and Rick can feel him just over his shoulder. “I don’t understand.”

Sighing, Rick moves his hand away, revealing the wound more plainly. The entire area is red, and the precise row of black stitches is engulfed by puffy flesh, the cut oozing between the sutures.

For once, Jonah has no reply.

“Like I said, it’ll get infected and create an abscess,” Rick says numbly, the details of his first aid courses pulsing in futility through his brain as he looks at Billy’s face. “And we’ll have no way of treating it at all.”


Rick doesn’t know what to do.

All his training and all his years of preparation -- all his posturing and all his demanding -- and the simple fact is, when faced with a situation of uncertainty and peril, he has no clue what he’s doing. He’s usually good at thinking on his feet. His first day on the job, he’d unwittingly jumped in a car with a Russian operative and promptly jumped back out. It had nearly gotten him killed, but it had been the only feasible plan at the time.

And overseas, while rescuing the hostages, when Michael nearly had his fingers chopped off, Rick had just acted. He hadn’t second guessed himself, he’d just blown his cover, talked big, eaten a scorpion and saved the day.

Rick’s been scared more than once since he joined the CIA, but this time, he’s just stuck with the gnawing dread and an inevitable, paralyzing inaction. He’d been indignant and frustrated about having to stay behind. After all, he’d counted himself too skilled to essentially be a babysitter. It hadn’t occurred to him that he might face a different kind of peril entirely by doing so.

Now he’s resentful, a little scared, and completely uncertain. Billy being sick isn’t necessarily a game changer, but Rick’s no medical expert so it’s impossible to assess with much clarity. He also can’t help but feel somewhat responsible. There’s no guarantee Billy wouldn’t have gotten an infection either way, but Rick passed on his responsibilities. Rick’s the one who let Jonah take first watch. He’s the one who trusted Jonah, a relative stranger, with the most important thing -- a teammate’s life.

The weight of that responsibility is daunting, now that Rick has the time to think about it clearly. More so because he’s uncomfortably aware that something bad has happened on his watch.

Part of Rick wants to panic -- he’s in Cambodia with half his team undercover with an asset he doesn’t know with a sick teammate -- but he’s a spy. Spies don’t panic.

Spies act.

And that’s what Rick needs to do.


For the most part, the next steps are actually very simple, all anxiety aside. He goes through their first aid kit and sets aside the gauze, antiseptic and Tylenol. It’s not much, but it’s a start, and he clearly has enough to get through the next few days. Then he gets a fresh bowl of water, pouring a glass as well before he goes to Billy’s bedside.

He makes a point to be noisy, because Billy’s his teammate but they’re still relative strangers. Rick feels a responsibility to be there for the man, but it’s still weird, to say the least.

Fortunately, this time, Billy rouses. It seems to be a struggle, and his eyes are heavy as he works to wake up. Even when he finally seems to accomplish the small feat of opening his eyes, Billy looks confused, staring at the ceiling like he’s not sure what’s going on.

It’s not exactly encouraging, and Rick feels more out of place than ever. He silently curses Michael again. If anyone should be playing nursemaid, it should be someone who knows Billy better. Not the new guy.

But he’s not really angry. Well, he is angry, but that’s not what this is about right now. Right now, he’s mostly just scared because he’s in charge and this happened on his watch and he’s not entirely sure what to do.

Inaction is not an option. He scoots his chair closer, and smiles as Billy’s head finally turns toward him.

“Hey,” Rick says, trying to sound as casual as possible.

Billy takes a long moment. Then, he wets his lips. “I feel worse than I remember.” His face crinkles in apparent uncertainty. “Michael must have used a heavier sedative than normal.”

Rick’s eyebrows go up. “They drug you often?”

“It’s happened a time or two,” Billy admits. “Michael Dorset has an affinity for drugs. He never made it in med school, but he could be a splendid pharmacist were he not such a paranoid bastard.”

“That shouldn’t surprise me,” Rick comments ruefully. Then he finds himself hesitating, unable to look Billy in the eyes.

Billy’s clearly sick, but he still notices. “This isn’t just the sedative, is it?”

Rick girds himself, lifting his eyes to meet Billy’s gaze again. “Your stab wound is infected,” he says plainly. There’s no good way to soften it, and Billy strikes him as the type who wants to know. Rick also knows that there’s probably no lie he could tell Billy that the Scot won’t see through immediately.

Glancing toward his stomach, Billy’s look of consternation deepens. “It looked fine last night.”

“It doesn’t take much,” Rick says, feeling apologetic. He swallows. “While you were out, Jonah stitched it closed.”

Billy’s been cognizant since he woke up, but it still takes him a moment to understand.

“He was trying to be helpful,” Rick explains uselessly.

“But he stopped it from draining,” Billy concludes, the grim realization crossing his features. He shakes his head, shock and disbelief setting in. “Well intentioned bastard buggered me good. Probably read about it online.”

“Probably,” Rick agrees. “I was sleeping. I thought -- I mean, I didn’t think--”

“It’s not your fault,” Billy chides.

“I let him change the bandage,” Rick says guiltily.

“And Michael drugged me into oblivion,” Billy says. “Casey probably cheered him on. If you go looking for blame, you’ll always find it, and it rarely does anyone much good.”

The absolution is logical and freely given, but it does little to assuage the gnawing doubt in the pit of Rick’s stomach. “I was waiting for you to wake up before we decided whether or not to take out the stitches.”

Paling slightly, Billy looks less than thrilled at the prospect. “I reckon that’s the only feasible choice.”

“It’ll hurt,” Rick says. “And at this point, there’s no guarantee it’ll make any difference. If the infection is advanced...”

Then Billy will need heavy duty antibiotics, and even that might not be enough.

“Worth a try, though,” Billy says. “I always favor action over not.”

That’s the answer Rick was expecting; really, it’s the only answer that makes any sense. The longer the wound is closed, the more time there is for the infection to spread. If they can drain the wound now, there’s a chance they can stop it from getting too serious.

Rick’s known that all along, just like Billy knows it now. Yet, the thought of it...is hard to take. “Are you sure?” he asks.

Billy makes a face, shifting as he tries to sit up. “Unfortunately, yes,” he says, settling himself back against the pillow.

“I, um,” Rick hesitates. “I’ve never done this before.”

Billy manages a smile. It’s shaky, but there’s a faint sparkle in Billy’s eyes. “Then this shall be a fantastic learning experience,” he says. “Baptism by fire. Getting your hands dirty -- literally!”

Rick’s brow furrows. “I just -- what if I do it wrong?”

Billy huffs breathlessly. “Lad, I’ve been stabbed. I’ve been drugged. I’ve been stitched up and am currently burning with infection. At this point, there’s no wrong you can do that will make much difference.”

“That’s not exactly reassuring,” Rick says.

“Aye,” Billy says with a small grimace. “Well, if it helps, I trust you.”

“Really?” Rick asks.

“You ate a scorpion to save Michael’s hand,” Billy reminds him. “Compared to that, this is nothing.”


It’s nothing.

Rick tells himself that, repeating the mantra in his head until it’s an unconscious drone in the back of his consciousness. It’s nothing. He’s done more basic sewing in Life Skills back in the eighth grade. This is nothing more than glorified arts and crafts. All he has to do was take the scissors and snip.

It’s nothing.

He tackles the task with his usual energy, starting by sanitizing the scissors. He scrubs them under scalding water then uses the disinfectant in the first aid kit to finish the job. Meticulously, he lays out some extra gauze and tape, placing it all next to the antiseptic so he can clean the wound once he gets it open.

It’s nothing.

But when he takes his place by Billy’s side, he finds himself hesitating. He looks at the exposed wound, still angry and red, and finds it suddenly hard to move. Blinking a few times, he forces himself to breathe.

“It’s not going to get any easier, son,” Billy says finally, disturbing the uncomfortable silence.

Rick startles, looking up at Billy. “I know. I just--” He falters. “You’ll need some painkillers. This is going to hurt.”

“Nothing you can give me will kick in soon enough,” Billy reminds him. He shifts in obvious discomfort on the bed. “Though I reckon I’m due for some Tylenol.”

Rick puts down the scissors, reaching down to snag the Tylenol from the kit. “I’ll just need a moment to get some water--”

Billy snorts. “I’ll take them dry,” he says.

Rick looks at him. “But--”

“But stop finding reasons to delay the inevitable,” Billy says flatly. “It’s not pleasant for either of us, but I suspect the anticipation will be worse than the actual doing.”

Rick is dubious.

Billy holds out his hand plaintively.

Reluctant, Rick hands over the two pills.

Billy palms them and pops them in his mouth, swallowing with a grimace. His face is scrunched with pain for a moment before he takes a few steadying breaths and nods to Rick. “Alright,” he says staunchly. “Let’s do this.”

Rick’s out of things to fuss over. He’s out of reasons to delay. All that’s left is picking up the scissors, scooting his chair closer and leaning over Billy’s wound. He pauses, swallowing, the scissors hovering just for a moment. Beneath him, Billy’s body is taut with anticipation.

It’s nothing.

And Rick cuts the first stitch.


At first, Rick thinks he’s done it wrong. The feeling of the thread beneath his scissors is sickening and surreal, and he has to control a wave of nausea as it gives way and fresh blood and pus oozes free.

As hard as it is for him, though, he’s pretty sure it’s worse for Billy. The Scot flinches in earnest, fingers fisting in the sheets as he goes stiff. He seems to stop breathing, his jaw locked and his eyes squeezed shut as he turns his head away in what Rick can only imagine is an attempt to salvage his dignity.

Rick wishes he could be so lucky, but then he feels guilty. Billy’s the one with inflamed stitches, and Rick is worrying about himself. The sheepishness is enough to steady himself for the second cut.

It’s not easier than the first, but he doesn’t let himself dwell. He moves on to the third and the fourth, even as blood swells. By the fifth, he has to use a piece of gauze to wipe it away, and Billy hisses, starting to tremble, and Rick does his best not to look as tears start to track down the other man’s cheeks.

Instead, he pushes on. He snips the next stitches with speed and precision, completing the task until the wound is open and seeping, the fiery red flesh revealing the badly infected cut. Rick has to swallow hard, leaning a bit closer to get a better look.

He doesn’t like what he sees. The wound clearly needs to drain, but Rick is hesitant to actively clean it out. The flesh is so raw that Rick can only imagine it’ll be extremely painful -- and he’s not sure it’ll do much good.

Billy takes a gulping breath. “Don’t stop now,” he says, sounding audibly shaken. “Let’s finish this, aye?”

“It should drain okay--”

“Do the bloody job,” Billy says, curtly now. He’s looking at Rick with shiny eyes. “I don’t fancy pain, but dying a preventable death is even worse.”

He’s right, of course. Rick looks back at the wound and it’s him who wants to cry this time. There’s no place for that. Instead, Rick picks up the water and a clean piece of gauze. He lingers, then opens the wound and flushes it out.

This time, Billy screams, cutting off the sounds with a desperate, strangled noise. He chokes on a cry, writhing for a moment before forcing himself to go very still. It takes all Rick has to keep going, carefully doing what needs to be done.

And hoping it’s enough.


It takes a painfully long time to finish. Once Rick has flushed the wound and cleansed it, he pulls out the remnants of the stitches, plucking the thread from the inflamed skin. Billy says nothing through it all, and if he whimpers with each pull against the tender flesh, Rick’s not going to say anything about it.

When he’s done, Rick lightly bandages the wound and suggests Billy lay on his side. The simple movement seems to exhaust the Scot, and he sags heavily into the stark sheets as soon as he’s positioned.

“Pills should be kicking in,” Rick murmurs.

Billy shivers, eyes only half open. “Better than nothing,” he slurs.

Rick reaches down and snags the blanket, laying it over Billy gently. “Once it drains, it should get better,” he says.

Billy nods, closing his eyes. “I reckon it can’t get much worse.”

Rick feels dumb standing there, but he can’t think of anything else to do or say. Michael would have something simple to make things logical; Casey’s banality would somehow lessen the fear. And if the positions were reversed, Billy would probably be telling jokes or stories, something to distract everyone from the perilous reality.

But Rick’s the new guy. He’s not sure what his role is in all this yet, but he certainly hopes it involves more than standing like an idiot.

Before he can resolve that, however, Rick notices that Billy’s breathing has evened out and his body has eased its tension. His eyes don’t open, and he makes no further attempts to talk.

Still, Rick loiters a moment longer. Billy’s probably right. The number of things that have gone wrong to lead them to this point is pretty impressive. Their luck is bound to turn, just by sheer virtue of the odds.

But then, Rick’s mind goes back to his second day in the office. He remembers Billy, sitting at the table. I say a lot of things I don’t mean.

Chewing his lip, Rick hopes this isn’t one of them.


Awkward doesn’t do it justice.

Rick’s felt awkward since he showed up at the ODS and Casey told Billy to put his pants on. He’d been moved to incredulity when they drugged him and ditched him, and he’d been nothing short of mortified when they crashed his second date with Fay. Now he’s holed up in the Cambodian rainforest with a paranoid asset he doesn’t know who inadvertently compromised an operative -- all under Rick’s supposed supervision. Awkward doesn’t do it justice, but there really aren’t any other words for it.

There’s also nothing to be done for it.

This isn’t Rick’s fault, necessarily, but it sort of feels that way. It doesn’t help that there’s literally nothing to do.

He checks on Billy from time to time, but the Scotsman seems to need the sleep, and Rick doesn’t think it’ll do anyone any good if he checks the wound obsessively every thirty minutes. Instead, he peeks in before settling across the table from Jonah.

For his part, Jonah seems just as bothered as Rick is. He has his computer out, but he’s only clicking half heartedly and the moments pass mostly in tense silence. Whenever they accidentally make eye contact, Jonah looks hurriedly away.

Rick sighs. “It’s not your fault.”

“I stitched him up,” Jonah replies.

“Sure, but you were trying to help. You didn’t stab him.”

“I stitched him up,” Jonah says again.

Rick shrugs, trying to be magnanimous. “Sure, but--”

Jonah shakes his head. “But nothing. Michael’s good at what he does and he follows through on promises more often than not. But there’s one thing he never tolerates -- and that’s when somebody messes with his team.”

Rick frowns a little. That’s not the answer he was expecting. Honestly, it’s not an answer that makes much sense. Sure, the guys had talked about being close knit, but they’d followed that up by drugging him, so he takes that with a grain of salt.

Jonah doesn’t seem to notice, though. “That’s why I went the extra distance,” he continues, voice sounding strained now as he runs a hand through his hair. “Because I knew if one of Michael’s guys died in my house, it’d all be over with. He’d never forgive me.”

Rick’s frown deepens. “Michael understands the risks of the game--”

“Yeah,” Jonah says emphatically. “He understands the risks so he can circumvent them. He never risks his team.”

Now, Rick finds himself staring. “We are talking about the same Michael, right?”

“Of course!” Jonah says. He chews his lip before shaking his head. “Billy has to be okay. Maybe I can find some online tips about fighting infection. You think?”

Rick doesn’t know what to say.

Jonah nods to himself, scraping his chair back. “I think,” he mutter. “I’m just going to go and see what I can find. And let me know if anything changes! I may need a complete list of his symptoms!”

There’s no time to reply before Jonah disappears behind his bedroom door. There’s a click of a lock -- and then another -- and Rick is left in silence.

He sighs, glancing back toward Billy’s door. He’s not sure if Jonah’s right or not, but he’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to find out.


Rick spends the rest of the day trying to look productive. He stares out the two lone windows for extended periods of time under the pretense of checking the perimeter. He reads over the mission files to make himself feel like he’s still part of the mission. He makes Billy a meal and gives him water in the late afternoon, but the Scot is asleep by the time Michael calls to check in that evening.

“You’re sure?” Michael asks.

Rick resists the urge to roll his eyes. “I know what an infection looks like,” he huffs.

“What’s his fever?” Michael asks.

“Been pretty consistent around 102 after Tylenol,” Rick reports.

“And how is he taking it?”

Rick sighs. “He knows what’s going on,” he says. “But he’s been tired.”

“So he’s not talking your ear off?” Michael asks, sounding a little more concerned.

“Been too tired,” Rick says. There’s a brief, uncertain silence. Rick feels like he should say something, like he should have something more to report. He wants to say something definitive -- to prove he’s a spy worth his mettle -- but he comes up with nothing. It makes him feel a little pathetic, but he still needs to ask. “You think we should do something?”

The indecisive question is hard to give voice to, no matter how necessary it may be. It feels a little like giving up, like he’s giving them justification for all the things they’ve done to him.

On the other end of the line, Michael sighs. “Well, right now it sounds like it’s not too bad,” he says. “I mean, you think he’s fighting it?”

Rick glances toward the closed bedroom door. “I think he’s giving it his best shot. We both are.”

“Then, if you think there’s a chance...” Michael hesitates, and Rick realizes what’s happening. Michael is deferring to him. Michael is asking his opinion.


Right when Rick isn’t sure.

His shoulders fall. “I mean, there’s always a chance.”

Michael sighs again. “Getting him out now would be a mess,” he says, more concretely now. “If you’ve got a handle on it and can monitor him, I think we can stick it out and see how it goes. In another 24 hours, we should know which way this is going.”

Just that fast, Michael’s taken back the lead. Rather, Rick’s given it up. It’s a little humiliating. It’s also a relief.

He nods readily. “Okay,” he says. “I can do this.”

There’s another pause before Michael asks. “No idea how it happened? I mean, I know he was stabbed...”

Rick’s stomach flipped. He’d avoided that part. It’d been foolish, he knew, but he’d told himself that explaining that Billy was sick was more important that explaining how it happened. Still, he’d known all along that Michael would want to know.

“Jonah, he -- I mean, when I was sleeping,” Rick starts, fumbling badly. He takes a breath and continues. “Jonah changed the bandage and tried to help by stitching the wound. With Billy being drugged, he slept through it and he didn’t wake up until the next day so I didn’t...I mean, I didn’t realize.”

The silence that follows is terse, and Rick finds himself bracing.

“He slept through it?” Michael asks, sounding bitter.

“I should have checked on him sooner,” Rick says quickly, feeling apologetic. The guilt swells now. “I shouldn’t have let Jonah near him at all--”

“Well, it’s too late for that,” Michael says gruffly.

Rick’s grateful that across the telephone connection, Michael can’t see his cheeks redden.

Then, Michael sighs again even more wearily than before. “We can hash out the should-have’s later,” he says with more than a note of resignation. “Right now, I need you on your game. I need you to keep Billy’s wound clean and keep him hydrated. We want to give him the best chances possible to kick this thing so we have time to finish the mission.”

“So it’s going okay?” Rick asks.

“Don’t you have a enough to worry about, Martinez?”

Rick clamps his mouth shut.

“We’ll call tomorrow, at the same time,” Michael says without any further ado.

Numbly, Rick nods. “I’m sorry.”

“Just...do what you can,” Michael tells him before he abruptly cuts off the call.

Rick puts down the phone and looks at it for a moment. He’ll do what he can.

He’s just not sure there’s anything he really can do.


Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: September 19th, 2013 09:02 pm (UTC)
Billy in peril, what more could I want?

Well, a whole chapter of Billy suffering, could I want for more? Maybe more suffering, HAHAHA!

Seriously, this is another wonderful chapter. I love Billy's granting Rick his trust, encouraging him, telling him that doing nothing is worse than doing something, knowing the pain and agony to come would be at his expense, still, Billy doesn't give Rick any recrimination, tells him it's not his fault, it's the kind of supportive nature that comes naturally to Billy and what I love about him. I think Jonah's assessment of Michael and how he cares about keeping his team safe is a really good 3rd party POV of the man. It rings true and describes a man who uses his paranoid nature to achieve the best results for his men, for them to survive the mission, as if a successful mission is a nice byproduct of having his men live through it. Can't wait for the next chapter.

Fave Parts:

“Probably,” Rick agrees. “I was sleeping. I thought -- I mean, I didn’t think--”

“It’s not your fault,” Billy chides.

“I let him change the bandage,” Rick says guiltily.

“And Michael drugged me into oblivion,” Billy says. “Casey probably cheered him on. If you go looking for blame, you’ll always find it, and it rarely does anyone much good.”

-- AH Billy logic and absolution!

Billy huffs breathlessly. “Lad, I’ve been stabbed. I’ve been drugged. I’ve been stitched up and am currently burning with infection. At this point, there’s no wrong you can do that will make much difference.”

“That’s not exactly reassuring,” Rick says.

“Aye,” Billy says with a small grimace. “Well, if it helps, I trust you.”

“Really?” Rick asks.

“You ate a scorpion to save Michael’s hand,” Billy reminds him. “Compared to that, this is nothing.”

--Talk about Billy's way to be cheerleader! I love that he's always played that role, even in the most dire of situations, especially when he's the one in the dire straits.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 28th, 2013 02:23 am (UTC)
Re: Billy in peril, what more could I want?
CHAOS team

The early Billy/Rick dynamic is so great in the show. They have that bond, and I would have loved to see their friendship develop if the show had gone on.

At least there's still fic :)


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