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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

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

October 3rd, 2013 (05:45 am)
accomplished

feeling: accomplished

Previous parts in the MASTER POST.



EPILOGUE

Billy’s stolen car is almost as dilapidated as Rick’s taxi. However, since Billy’s vehicle isn’t totaled on the side of the road, they all climb in. It’s a tight fit, and Rick finds himself tucked in the backseat with Michael squashed up next to him and Billy sprawled over them both. Jonah frets in the front, and Casey grumbles at the wheel.

They’re all injured to some degree. Michael seems to be nursing a concussion after the accident, and Billy’s only in and out of consciousness. His skin is warm, but not hot, and Rick figures that’s still a good sign.

Casey pops his shoulder back into place with nothing more than a growl, and though his knuckles are white on the wheel, Rick figures that’s just as much his disposition as it is any likely injury. Jonah seems to have fared the best -- the car accident barely left him bruised -- and yet he’s the one who complains the most.

“Do you know how many pathogens are in blood?” he asks. “I don’t think I have enough bleach to contain the spread of germs from this incident.”

“That’s too bad,” Michael says. “We’re stopping by.”

Jonah gapes.

Rick hides his shock a bit better. “Don’t you think we’d all be better suited for the hospital?” he asks. He nods toward Billy, who is lying slack-jawed between them.

“Four undercover agents and an asset all checking into a hospital with suspicious wounds?” Michael asks. “The injuries alone would probably get the police involved, and with Mr. Motormouth in the front seat, we’d probably all end up in custody.”

“Not to mention we now have two sets of bad guys looking for us,” Casey reminds him.

“No, we need to find a secure location and hole up,” Michael says. “We can contact Langley and get an extraction team in order.”

“But Billy...,” Rick protests.

Michael gives him a look. “We’ll check everyone over,” he says. “If there’s an injury we need to take care of, we’ll take care of it.”

Jonah scoffs. “Normally I’m all for erring on the side of caution when talking about using facilities under government insight,” he says. “But where do you think you’re going to go? We’re in the middle of the rainforest! There’s, like, one secure place--”

Jonah cuts off. Then he groans.

“You can’t be serious!” Jonah wails.

“And you can’t be that dumb,” Casey says. “Now remind me, is it this turn off or the next.”

Sulking, Jonah looks like he wants to object. But between Casey’s white knuckles and Michael’s piercing stare and Billy’s lax features -- what choice does Jonah have? Rick feels for him, he really does. He knows what it’s like to be put up against the ODS. They’re infuriating.

They’re also right most of the time.

You can either hate them for it -- or you can join them.

Jonah sighs. “Next,” he says. “And you guys owe me...”

“Come on,” Rick cajoles. He looks to Casey to Billy before smiling at Michael. “You know we’re good for it.”

-o-

At Jonah’s house, they pile in weary and bloodied. Jonah retreats immediately, apparently overwhelmed by the day’s events. Even though they’ve given him a hard time, they owe Jonah quite a bit and don’t object to his departure.

As for the ODS, Michael insists they tend to Billy first, and Casey lays the Scotsman on Jonah’s spare bed. They change the bandage and pull the covers up before letting him sleep.

Michael looks ready to tend to Casey, but the shorter man merely glares him into submission. “I know the hits you took back at the compound,” Casey says. “Now sit down, shut up and let us look at you.”

Rick figures the fact that the mission’s as good as over is the only reason Michael submits, and when Rick helps Casey finagle their team leader’s shirt off, he has to wince at the bruises. “How did you even walk?” Rick asks.

Casey has a penlight out, shining it in Michael’s eyes. “Can you even see straight?”

Michael hums softly. “We do what we have to.”

Casey rolls his eyes. “And right now, you need to rest,” he says. “No moving, but if you fall asleep, we’ll be waking you up.”

Michael smirks. “Yes, mother.”

Casey purses his lips. “If I were a mother, I would feed you cough syrup until you were unconscious and not worry about you until the morning,” he says.

Rick gives him a look.

Casey shrugs. “I had a loveless childhood,” he says.

“I’m sorry,” Rick replies.

“Don’t be,” Casey tells him. “It’s the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. Now, sit down, new guy. Your turn.”

Rick shakes his head. “You were the one who was held and interrogated.”

“And I didn’t even pass out once,” Casey objects.

Normally, Rick might waffle. But he’s been through too much. He’s earned this as much as the rest of them.

He pins Casey with a look. “Let me look at you,” he says. “Or I’ll ask Jonah where the cough syrup is.”

For a moment, Casey’s look is ambiguous. Rick worries he’s set the other man off, but then his mouth twitches in the approximation of a smile. “Okay, then,” he says, giving Rick the penlight. “Your turn to play mother.”

-o-

Casey’s okay. His ribs are bruised but they don’t seem broken, and his range of motion on his arm is better than Rick’s. When Rick is satisfied, Casey gruffly returns the favor before declaring Rick’s hard head has prevented him from any serious damage.

“Thanks,” Rick says gingerly.

Casey scoffs. “I didn’t say it was a compliment,” he says. “Hard heads are indicative of thicker skulls, which means there’s probably less brain matter inside.”

Rick frowns.

“So any concussion wouldn’t have done much damage anyway,” Casey concludes. He sighs. “I’m going to sleep now. Can I trust you to keep watch?”

Keeping watch -- it doesn’t seem like much, but this time Rick recognizes the request for what it is. Casey isn’t asking him to do something trivial. He’s asking Rick to take the responsibility for the most important things.

He nods. “Yeah,” he says. “I’ve got it.”

Casey’s silent agreement means more to Rick than words ever will.

-o-

Recovery is quiet. The ODS is all for antics, but this mission has left them worse for wear, and it shows. There have always been moments, of course, when Rick has seen the serious part of what the ODS does. Back in Africa, when they’d exchanged glances after seeing the hostages. When they came in, guns blazing, ready to extract him and everyone else from that mess.

This is a different kind of quiet, though. The determination of the mission is gone; Rick’s own single mindedness seems silly now. The bad guys are still out there; they may be intel to gather; there may even be elephants to herd. But none of that is more important than this.

So Rick checks on Billy, and he watches Casey. He minds Jonah’s property and wakes Michael every few hours. The hours of the night are long, and he feels weary deep in his bones, but this responsibility is his, and he takes satisfaction in that.

When the dawn is breaking, Rick is exhausted, but he checks his watch dutifully and lifts himself to wake Michael. The team leader is sleeping on the couch, but when Rick comes close, he finds the man looking at him. “I think I’m okay, Martinez,” Michael says.

Rick doesn’t even have the energy to shrug. “Have to be sure,” he says. “You know where you are?”

Michael sits up gingerly, smirking. “Better than you do,” he says.

Wearily, Rick sits down on the nearby chair, keeping his voice low so as not to wake Casey, who is sleeping on the floor nearby. “Well, this is only my second mission,” he points out.

Michael rolls his shoulders with a small wince. “And what a mission it was.”

Rick huffs a laugh. “It wasn’t a mission at all,” he says. “Did we even get the intel?”

Michael sighs. “Some of it,” he says. “Not as much as we wanted.”

Rick’s stomach churns. “That’s bad, isn’t it?” he asks. “You know the director is gunning for your jobs.”

With a small wave of his hand, Michael shrugs. “Higgins knew this one was a long shot,” he says. “I think he just wanted us out of the office and miserable for a few weeks as payback. He’ll enjoy thrashing us about how little we got out of it, but he won’t fire us for this.”

“Are you sure?” Rick asks.

“Kid, if you think this mission is bad, you haven’t seen anything.

Rick sucks in a breath, blowing it out. “I know,” he says. “Like I said: second mission.”

Michael seems to implicitly acknowledge that. Then he pauses, looking at Rick carefully. “You know, for your second mission, you defied a lot of orders.”

Rick scoffs. “You guys don’t have much room to talk.”

“Sure,” Michael says. “But you’re the one who keeps talking about the mission.”

“Well, yeah,” Rick says. “That’s the job I signed up for.”

“So why didn’t you follow orders?” Michael says. “You had no way of knowing what that extraction plan of yours would do.”

“I had a pretty good idea of what would happen if I didn’t go,” Rick counters. “I mean, you’re the one who told me it’s not just about the mission. It’s about the team, about how we all do our jobs. You needed the backup.”

“That wasn’t part of the mission,” Michael says.

“Yeah, well, I guess I was getting my cues from somewhere,” Rick says sardonically. “Besides, Billy almost begged me to go after you.”

“He can be quite convincing,” Michael agrees. “And annoying.”

Rick chuckles. “He gave me the idea, but what you did on this mission -- that gave me the push I needed to go.”

Michael’s brow darkened. “So you’re saying I encouraged you to be recklessly homicidal and dangerously suicidal?”

“I won’t leave my team in danger,” Rick replies. “Not again.”

Michael’s eyes are still studying him, his expression guarded. But then he nods, a smile spreading across his face. “You know, maybe you’re in the right spot after all.”

For the first time since he showed up at the CIA, Rick’s starting to think maybe he is, too.

-o-

After that, Rick sleeps.

He actually can’t remember the last time he truly slept, so when he takes Michael’s place on the couch, he’s out. Normally, this might bother him -- it’s hard to let his guard down, especially when self-proclaimed right bastards are involved -- but somehow Rick knows it’s safe.

In his dreams, he’s back in his mother’s kitchen, telling her about his first two missions. She is both proud and horrified, doting over her baby boy.

“It’s okay, Mom,” Rick says. “I know sometimes it’s dangerous, but I’ve got a good team.”

She clutches her chest a bit, toying with his hair. “You are my baby,” she coos. “If anything ever happened to you...”

Rick glances out her kitchen window. In the yard, Michael and Casey and Billy are there. Michael is scrutinizing the sod; Casey digs up a carrot from the garden and eats it. Billy is playing hide and seek with the elephant; surprisingly, the elephant seems to be winning.

It’s not the team he’d pick; it’s not the team he’d ever envision. It works, though.

Grinning, he looks back at his mother, leaning down to kiss her cheek. “It’s okay now, Ma,” he says, squeezing her arm. “I got to go.”

She looks ready to cry again, but Rick finds he can’t stop. His team is there for him, whether they want to admit it or not.

And Rick’s not going to leave them waiting.

-o-

Rick’s eyes open.

For a moment, he’s not quite sure where he is. He’s on a mission. No, the mission is over. He’s safe. His team--

He sits up promptly, and the room spins.

“Easy, lad,” Billy cajoles. “Casey says your hard head spared you from a concussion, but I reckon you’re still going to have a nasty headache for a while.”

That’s something of an understatement, and Rick tries to hide his grimace. Until he realizes-- “Billy!” he exclaims, eyes going wide. “You’re awake!”

Seated in the chair where Casey had slept last night, Billy grins. He looks sickly, but he’s upright and coherent. “Aye,” he says. “You can’t keep a good man down. At least, so it seems in your case. For me, some proper rest, fluids and antibiotics seem to be helping.”

“But you left AMA,” Rick says, feeling a bit confused.

Billy blushes. “You will find Michael Dorset has creative methods of getting what he needs,” he says. “This isn’t the first time we’ve had some unfortunate close calls.”

Rick makes a face. “Is that supposed to be encouraging?”

Billy smiles gently. “Depends on how you look at it,” he says.

“Near death on a consistent basis?”

“But a team that will bend heaven and earth to get you out nonetheless,” Billy reminds him.

Rick can’t argue that. There’s an amiable silence, but Rick shifts, chewing his lip.

“You may as well say what’s on your mind,” Billy says.

Rick sighs. “You followed me.”

Billy nods. “Indeed.”

“You promised me you’d stay in bed,” Rick finally says.

Billy has the decency to look chagrined. “Well, in my defense, I did tell you on your second day on the job that I say a lot of things I don’t mean.”

“We were having a moment, though,” Rick says. “If we’re going to trust each other in the field, you have to be able to tell me the truth.”

Billy sighs. “I tend to think of the truth as a negotiable thing,” he says.

Rick gives him a look.

Billy’s shoulders fall a bit. “I also tend to think of the truth as a necessary evil at times,” he says. “What I did is something I’d do to Michael or Casey, too. I reckon they wouldn’t believe me, though.”

“How does that even work?” Rick asks. “How can we be a team if we don’t say what we mean?”

“Because we know what we mean,” Billy tells him. His look is piercing now. “Isn’t that what matters?”

“And you knew I wouldn’t get the job done?” Rick asks.

At that, Billy looks truly apologetic. “Sometimes I forget how sensitive wee spies are,” he says.

“I’m not sensitive,” Rick protests.

Billy gives him a look. “You’re proud, and you’re out to prove yourself,” he says. “And you have courage, and I knew without a doubt you’d do everything in your power to get the job done. But there’s a reason the ODS has stayed together this long.”

“Because no one else will tolerate you?”

Billy laughs. “That, and we have each other’s backs -- even when we don’t want it,” he says. “And really, after you do enough missions, they start to blur together. The goals are always important and noble, but after a time, it starts to lack immediacy. But what is always worth fighting for -- what we will never compromise on -- is each other. A team is something real and tangible -- the best thing to fight for.”

Rick nods, considering this. “I joined the Agency to serve my country,” he says. “I believed I could make a difference for the better.”

“And after two missions, how’s that going for you?” Billy asks.

Rick lets out a breath. “It’s complicated,” he admits. “I mean, this mission was a disaster. The first one was unsanctioned. You guys seem to break the rules as much as you hold them up.”

“Well, espionage isn’t exactly a career for the upright,” Billy points out.

“I know,” Rick says. “And I just...I don’t know. The greater good matters to me.”

“As it should,” Billy agrees. “Just remember, the greatest good is sometimes the things right in front of you. They’re not ideals or promises -- they’re people.”

Rick shakes his head with a small laugh. “You guys are still bastards.”

Billy grins, but doesn’t disagree. “Give it time, lad,” he says. “You may find your inner bastard yet.”

“Well, I still think you guys need to be more honest -- with Higgins and with each other,” Rick says. “This would have gone much better if you guys had been straight with me from the start.”

“There may be some truth to that,” Billy says. He shrugs. “Who knows, maybe we can learn something from you along the way.”

Rick brightens at the idea. “You think?”

Billy makes another face. “It’s possible,” he says.

“This is another thing you don’t mean, isn’t it?” Rick asks.

Billy winks. “Now you’re starting to get it.”

“Yeah,” Rick says. “I think maybe I am.”

-o-

They take their time.

This isn’t all ODS flair, even if the guys try to make it seem that way. They banter and they joke, but they’re all sore and in various stages of recovery. They want it to seem like they’re extended their time just to up the bill for Higgins, but Rick starts to notice the way Michael presses his fingers between his eyes to dispel a headache, the way Casey rolls his shoulders more, the way Billy falls asleep every afternoon and evening before he’s finished telling his stories.

Rick can’t really complain. His own head injury leaves him fuzzy, and it’s only on the morning Michael announces they’re leaving that Rick thinks maybe all the effects are gone.

Jonah sighs in melodramatic flair. “It’s about time,” he says. “I’m going to have to order more food now. You guys have decimated my supply.”

“Don’t get the macaroni and cheese next time,” Billy advises. “That substance should not be equated with dairy.”

“But go double on the meatloaf,” Casey says. “Somehow the texture works.”

“You shouldn’t care because I don’t plan on seeing you for a long, long time,” Jonah says, sulking. “I may want to move.”

Michael smiles at him. “But then where will I send the check?”

Jonah glares.

Rick shakes his head. They guys won’t say it, but he will. “Thank you,” he says, holding his hand out to Jonah.

Jonah looks both surprised and reluctant. When he shakes it, he seems younger than Rick thinks he should. “I really am sorry.”

Billy comes up and claps Jonah on the shoulder. “All’s well that end’s well.”

“Well enough, anyway,” Michael points out. “We didn’t exactly get the intel.”

“And we may have started a turf war between the militia and the drug dealers,” Casey adds.

“And you ruined my car!” Jonah objects.

“But no one died,” Billy says. “I, for one, am quite grateful on that account.”

“I’m glad you’re setting our standards so high,” Michael says with a smirk.

“I don’t care about the standards,” Casey mutters. “I’m just ready to go. I want to get through the rainforest without any more leeches.”

“Or gunplay,” Billy adds.

“Or how about the elephants, huh, Rick?” Michael asks.

Rick rolls his eyes. “I think I can handle elephants now. After this mission, I think I can handle anything.”

Billy makes a face and Casey shakes his head.

Michael wets his lips. “Be careful with statements like that,” he warns. “You may find out it’s not true.”

Rick shrugs. “Maybe,” he says. “But that’s why I have my team to back me up, right?”

Billy grins, and Michael seems pleased with the answer. Even Casey seems oddly satisfied as Jonah just shakes his head.

“Okay, then,” Billy says. “I’m driving, but we need someone to be lookout.”

“You mean someone to sit shotgun and play target,” Casey says. “Not it.”

“Not it,” Michael says.

Rick gapes.

Jonah holds up his hands. “Don’t look at me.”

Finally, Rick just shakes his head. “Fine,” he says. “I’m it. Now let’s go.”

No one objects as they pile out. There’s no telling what awaits them; if Rick knows anything, it’s that he knows nothing at all. There could be adventure; there could be disaster. Rick’s a little terrified; he’s also excited.

Because he’s it -- and he’s never looked forward to anything more in his life.

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: October 11th, 2013 02:53 am (UTC)
A great way to end

Simply put, I LOVED the dialogue between Billy and Rick. Senior agent to "fresh out of nappies" agent. I know saying how much I loved your story isn't very inspired vocabulary, but I really did thoroughly enjoy every word and this chapter, specifically the talk that Billy has with Rick just tied the story in a perfect bow!

Fave part:

All of the Billy and Rick dialogue, but moment especially:

Rick makes a face. “Is that supposed to be encouraging?”

Billy smiles gently. “Depends on how you look at it,” he says.

“Near death on a consistent basis?”

“But a team that will bend heaven and earth to get you out nonetheless,” Billy reminds him.

Rick can’t argue that. There’s an amiable silence, but Rick shifts, chewing his lip.

--Billy just says it all and simply. Lovely!

Edited at 2013-10-11 03:15 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 28th, 2013 02:15 am (UTC)
Re: A great way to end
billy guitar

You are so sweet to review this to the end. Thank you! You make writing worthwhile.

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