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Chaos fic: A People Person (1/1)

December 23rd, 2013 (08:16 am)
sleepy
Tags: , ,

feeling: sleepy

Title: A People Person

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: This is for postfallen, who deserve more of a respite than a lone fic on the holidays. I’ll write you something more tailored to your current interests for your birthday, but for now I hope Billy will do :)

A/N: This also fills a square for my hc_bingo. I’m not going to mention the prompt because of spoilers :) Beta thanks to sockie1000.

Summary: Billy can read people. He charms them; that’s what he does. Most of the time.



-o-

Billy groans, slumping in his seat as they reach his flat. “I still think we deserve the day off tomorrow.”

“Then use a vacation day,” Michael tells him, putting it in park. “And stop your whining. We actually got back early.”

“For all the good it did us. If I did take the day, you’d just text me all the while, asking me questions for the report,” Billy grumbles. “We should have automatic downtime after we finish a stint overseas.”

Michael scoffs. “I don’t even know why you’re complaining,” he says. “This one was a walk in the park for you. You didn’t have to do anything.”

“To the contrary!” Billy says, duly offended. “I had to exert the full spectrum of my skills.”

Michael rolls his eyes. “You had to charm an ambassador’s wife while Casey, Rick and I did the actual work.”

Billy is indignant. “You think such things are easy?” he asks. “I had to charm the dear woman out of her security passcode, which is no easy feat, I might say. Plus, I was the one who had to pick the mark, woo the mark and secure our exit all without tipping her off.”

“Yeah, and we had to sneak through a ventilation shaft, subdue 10 guards and hack into an encrypted system without getting killed,” Michael points out. “You don’t win.”

Billy huffs, squaring his shoulder somewhat. “You underestimate the skill it takes to be charming,” he says. “Anyone can shimmy through a thin space, but is everyone such a supreme judge of character? I think not!”

Chuckling, Michael shakes his head. “Whatever you say, Collins,” he says. “See you in the morning.”

Billy glowers, opening his door. “You are a cruel man, Michael Dorset.”

“Yeah, well,” Michael says, “we all have our strengths.”

Billy slams the door with a grunt, watching as Michael drove away. Sighing, he turns toward the door and makes his way inside.

-o-

Long mission or not, Billy’s still a people person. It comes naturally to him; if he sees someone, he’s inclined to talk to them. This is why he has a job, he knows. This is why he succeeds as a spy. He’s never so tired as to forget that.

He passes the front desk and smiles broadly. Doug is working behind the desk, and he waves at Billy. “Evening, Mr. Collins,” he says. “Good business trip.”

“Ah, long, I’m afraid,” Billy says. “I’m knackered.”

“Well, you can have a quiet night in,” Doug says. “The noisy roommate upstairs left two days ago so you should have the area to yourself.”

“The offseason is tough on business, eh?” Billy says. “Did anything come for me while I was gone?”

Doug rummages a bit, producing a few pieces of mail. “Everything go well on the trip?” he asks. He grins. “You always have the best stories.”

Billy can’t help it. Tired as he is, he winks. “I do have a few interesting experiences involving a beautiful woman and an art gallery opening which you will probably enjoy,” he says. “But tomorrow, maybe?”

Doug nods. “I look forward to it!”

“Aye,” Billy says. “As well you should.”

“Have a good night!”

Billy gives him a half salute as he turns to go. “I intend to.”

-o-

“Ah,” Billy says as he exits the elevator and turns down the hall toward his flat. He’d asked for the second floor in particular; secure but still convenient for a quick escape. He grins. “My dear Ericka.”

The woman at the maid cart looks up, her face brightening. “You’re back late, Mr. Collins,” she says.

“As are you,” Billy observes. “I thought you were back on mornings.”

She sighs, tucking a strand of errant brown hair behind her ear. “Emma’s sick,” she says. “And I could use the hours.”

“And the children?” Billy asks.

“Oh, you didn’t hear yet!” Ericka says. “My husband finally got that new job! Regular hours! Benefits!”

“That is good news,” Billy says. “You must be so thrilled!”

“I’d be more thrilled if it paid enough that I didn’t have to pull overtime, but it’s a start,” Ericka says.

“I daresay it’s more than that,” Billy says with a wink. “I suspect you and your little clan are on your way to better things.”

Ericka blushes, chuckling a little. “Maybe,” she concedes. “Right now I’m just on to Room 204. Apparently there was some sort of incident involving spaghetti I have to deal with.”

Billy makes a face. “Best of luck with that.”

“I’ll need it!” she says as she pushes her cart down the opposite direction. “Oh, and welcome back!”

He lifts a fond hand. “Thank you!”

He watches her go a moment longer, lingering tiredly in the hall. He likes Ericka, and seeing her smile is one of the simple pleasures of his life. Doug likes to hear of exploits -- living vicariously, Billy suspects, and he can’t blame him -- but Ericka much prefers a sentimental ear. The poor woman works harder than anyone ought to, and with two kids at home, Billy reckons there are few people in her life who ever take the time to think about what she wants and needs. It doesn’t take much, Billy knows, to make someone feel valued.

It takes two minutes, and the results are dramatic. Ericka is happier, more vivacious. And she cleans his flat with the utmost care, nary a remark regarding his poor personal habits.

In short, everybody wins.

-o-

His room is around the corner, on the short side of the hotel. There’s a back exit, which stays locked from the outside, and Billy likes that it’s a dead-end hall. It’s quiet; it’s reclusive. For a spy, it works.

As he approaches, he hears a friendly whistle, and he can’t help but grin.

“Jerry, my good fellow,” he says jovially.

The maintenance man looks up from where he’s tinkering with a door, his face wizened but warm. Unlike the other employees, who seem to come and go with their shifts, Jerry is ever-present. Billy reckons the man is old and lonely; whatever home he has is empty. This hotel, these halls, these mean more to him than all the rest. He knows every hallway, every room. He knows every lightswitch and every nook and cranny.

In this, Billy feels something of a kindred spirit. Neither of them talk of their personal lives; they talk of mundane, abstract thing, of holes in the carpet and pleasant weather outside. Jerry has no family, Billy presumes mostly by the absence of mention. He knows such tactics, for they are his own.

“Well, this is an unexpected surprise,” Jerry says, straightening a little. He’s old with weather skin and pale blue eyes, but he’s still strong. Billy can see it in the way he grips his tools, the way he can stand on his tip toes when fixing a light. “I wasn’t counting on you until tomorrow.”

Billy grins good naturedly. “Sorry to disappoint, mate,” he says. “Plans changed a wee bit.”

“Not a disappointment,” Jerry says. “Just going to have to shuffle things around. I’ve still got that pipe in your suite I’m due to fix, but I was putting it off until the last minute.”

With all the travel and commotion, Billy’s nearly forgotten. His bathroom sink had started to drip, and Jerry had shut the water off until they could get in a new part. Billy’s not big on being clean, but he does use water. For coffee, bathroom breaks and instant soup. Without water in the entire flat, his restful evening is going to be a bit dry.

“Do you have time now?” Billy asks. “I don’t mind if you come in and finish while I unpack.”

Jerry’s face widens into a smile, cool blue eyes settling on Billy. “I think I can make that work.”

-o-

As Billy lets himself into his flat, he starts in with the chitchat. “Seems like the weather’s taken a turn for the worse early this year,” he comments, setting his keys on the desk by the door. He nods around the flat, which has been tended loosely by housekeeping but is still a generalized disaster area. “Sorry about the mess, mate. I wasn’t expecting company.”

Jerry chuckles, rummaging in his tool bag, which he rests on Billy’s table. “I like clutter,” he says. “Makes things feel lived in. That’s the hardest part about working at a hotel; everything is so clean and generic. Nothing even feels alive most of the time.”

“I reckon I find comfort in the uniformity sometimes,” Billy muses, slinging his bag down to the cluttered couch. He looks up with a friendly smile. “Safety in the lowest common denominator.”

Jerry is watching him, a part in hand. “Safety,” he says, a little thoughtful. “All these locks and security cameras. Don’t mean much of anything. It’s a facade.”

There’s something in his voice; something wistful; something...odd.

Billy cocks his head. “Most things in life are,” he says finally. He shrugs, making his way to the kitchenette. “Do you want something to drink? All my food is bad, but I might have something worth drinking around here…”

He opens the fridge and rummages a bit. There’s a few bottles of water, half a carton of badly outdated milk and a few things of beer. He picks up a beer. “They probably don’t encourage much drinking on the job,” Billy starts conversationally as he stands up and turns, “but--”

He stops, surprised to see Jerry standing right behind him, his bag still open on the table, a pair of tools in his hands.

Billy raises his eyebrows. It’s an awkward moment, though Billy’s lived through worse. “But if you’re interested…”

Jerry barely even flinches. No doubt, as a maintenance man, he’s been in his share of strange quarters. “No, thank you,” he says. “I actually don’t drink.”

“Ah,” Billy says with a shrug as he twists off the cap. “It is a vice I find myself quite fond of.”

Jerry smiles at that. “I never begrudge a man his vice,” he says.

The conversation lapses again, and Billy gestures toward the bathroom. “Well, then, don’t mind my chit chat,” he says. “I imagine you’re almost done for the day.”

“Last call,” Jerry says.

“Then, by all means,” Billy says. “Don’t let me stop you.”

Jerry nods benignly as he turns toward the bathroom. “Oh, don’t worry about me, son,” he says, his voice a low rumble in his chest. “There’s still plenty of time left in the night.”

-o-

Billy’s too tired from the mission to keep up with the conversation, especially Jerry seems quite content to work without it. It’s something singular about the man; he seems to enjoy solitude in a pure, genuine sort of way. He actually whistles while he works, and though his job may seem lowly, he seems to take it as an actual calling in life.

Billy respects that.

Sometimes he even envies it.

To be so sure of oneself; to be so calm and situated.

Billy can only imagine.

With no need for pretenses, Billy starts in on his beer and settles on the couch. He finds a book buried under one of the pillows and shuffles through it until he finds the page he lasts remembers reading. He starts up again, listening to the scuffle of Jerry working and the lilting tune of Jerry’s whistling coming from the next room.

It’s pleasant, really. There are worse ways to unwind.

He’s home. He has a cold beer and a good book. Soon he’ll even have running water for a warm shower.

And mostly, he’s home.

That means something to him, more than he might have once thought. Certainly more than he lets on. For all that he knows other people, sometimes he still struggles with himself.

Suddenly, there’s a clatter from the bathroom, the abrupt sound of metal on tile. Then, it goes silent.

After a moment, Billy asks, “Jerry? Everything all right?”

There’s no reply, and the silence suddenly feels wrong.

Frowning, Billy gets to his feet. “Jerry?” he asks again, caution flaring in the back of his mind. He’s tired, but he’s still a spy. But locked in his flat with the maintenance man, he has more reason to worry about natural dangers. Jerry’s spry but he’s not exactly young. Heart attacks, strokes -- Billy’s mind runs the gambit as he approaches. “Jerry?”

Anticipation mounting, Billy makes it to the bathroom, where the door is slightly ajar. He peeks in and sees tools spread out against the tile, the pipes seemingly untouched.

It’s not what he expects.

It doesn’t even make sense. This is a bathroom with no window. There’s no place out and with the shower curtain pulled back, it’s not as if there’s any place to hide. Except--

Confused, he starts to turn. He sees the movement behind the door, but it’s too late to compensate. He brings an arm up to defend himself, but there’s no forward blow. Instead, there’s a prick on his neck and Billy realizes something is wrong.

Something is very, very wrong.

His instincts kick in, and he starts to fight. Stumbling back, he lashes out, landing a punch against solid flesh. There’s no return fight, though, and Billy blinks up in shock at Jerry’s smiling face.

“Jerry?” he asks incredulously. “What--”

He falters, his strength starting to flag as his vision blurs. He blinks rapidly in a vain attempt to clear his vision, but it only gets worse. He sways, his head starting to bob forward as his knees turn soft and his legs wobble. Desperate, he swallows hard and reaches out to steady himself on the sink.

It doesn’t work.

He crashes to his knees, his entire body flushing hot and then cold. His head spins as his vision starts to darken, spots filling his vision.

Everything goes blank, and when he opens his eyes again, he’s on the floor, face pressed against the tile. He breathes heavily, trying to regain control of himself with limited success. His legs twitch and his fingers convulse, but he’s still barely able to lift his head when he’s dragged away from the sink and turned on his back.

Above him, Jerry is hard at work, flopping Billy over. As he grabs Billy by the wrists, dragging him like a sack of potatoes into the living area, he actually starts to whistle.

“Don’t you worry none,” Jerry muses lightly before the merry tune picks up again.

Then, just that fast, Jerry disappears. Billy tries to turn his head to see, but only catches a glimpse of the retreating figure moving toward the door. He hears a click, and he shudders.

This is bad.

He doesn’t know exactly what is happening or why, but being drugged is rarely a good sign. And Jerry -- or whoever the hell he is -- may be gone for the moment, but he’ll be back.

Which means Billy needs to act.

Now.

Pulse racing, Billy puts his effort into moving. He manages to lift an arm, throwing his weight as hard as he can to roll onto his side. He works to bring his arm beneath him, trying to prop himself up. He makes it an inch, maybe two--

And then collapses.

The drug is too strong; it’s taking hold too quickly. It’s only a mere matter of minutes before Billy is completely incapacitated. And in the meantime, Billy can’t even make it to the door. He can’t get a knife out to defend himself. He can’t do anything.

Frustrated, he balls his fist, pounding it against his leg as hot tears fill his eyes. It’s not supposed to be like this. He’s at home; he’s off the clock. This is his flat; this it the one bloody place he’s supposed to be safe.

But who is he kidding? He lives in a miserable little rented flat with nary a friend in sight. He lives a lonely, pathetic life. If not for his workmates, he’d be completely useless and alone.

Just like he is now.

Tears drip off his nose, falling to the carpet.

He should have seen this coming.

He should have fought harder.

He should have known.

Michael would have; Casey would have; Rick would have.

His team.

They’re not here, but Billy realizes he’s not quite alone. Not with modern technology. Not with his phone still on and conveniently in his front pocket.

Blinking, he struggles to focus, willing his numb fingers to grapple against his pants. It takes several tries as he runs his fingers clumsily along the leather of his belt before he catches the pocket.

Inside, his fingers fumble blindly. He feels the screen, his fingers feeling along the sides of the device to orient himself. He tries for a moment to pull it out, but it proves too difficult.

Grunting, Billy focuses instead on the smooth surface, mentally recalling the arrangement of his icons. It’s hard to tell exactly where he’s act, but he finds the home button and then manages to shift his fingers just slightly to the left to find his saved contacts.

He has lots of contacts but the first three he knows.

The first three.

Michael.

Casey.

Rick.

Any one of the three will do. He’s so intent on his task that he’s completely taken by surprise when the latch moves on the door.

Billy startles badly, glancing toward the door with a fresh surge of panic. He’s out of time; he’s out of options. He’s out…

Groping blindly, he takes the first contact he can find and tries typing. He has no idea what he’s saying; he has no idea if it makes any sense. He doesn’t have time, though. He doesn’t have time--

The door opens and Billy is just barely reaching for the send button -- he hopes, he really hopes -- as Jerry pushes in a laundry cart, still whistling all the while.

Billy’s still pressing buttons in a futile attempt to reach for help when Jerry leans down and hefts him up by the arms into a sitting position. He flops heavily, his face pressing against Jerry’s shoulder as the man busy himself, rearranging Billy’s unresponsive limbs. He can do nothing but groan as he’s lifted upward, half falling over Jerry’s shoulder as the man heaves him off the floor.

“Easy, now,” Jerry hums, patting him reassuringly on the back. It’s an oddly comforting gesture, contrasting grossly with the situation at hand.

For Billy has been drugged and now he’s being…

Air rushes past him unexpectedly and he lands on something soft. His legs are twisted, arms splayed at his sides as he stares up in shock at the ceiling. Jerry’s congenial face bobs in and out of view, plucking his legs one by one off the side of the cart and arranging them inside the laundry basket where Billy is now resting.

It would be uncomfortable, shoved in here as he is, assuming he had any feeling in his body. As it is, he can’t feel anything but terror.

He’s being kidnapped.

Or he’s going to be murdered.

Either way, this isn’t going well.

Jerry chuckles, starting a fresh tune as he throws a sheet over Billy’s face and everything goes dark.

-o-

He can’t move, but he doesn’t pass out. His energy dissipates, settling heavily in the dead limbs of his body, but his consciousness holds fast, numb but unaffected. It’s a particular choice, Billy knows, and it’s certainly not a positive sign. There are few reasons to keep someone awake but immobilize them, and Billy’s not one to fancy torture.

Sure, he can talk the talk, and he’s heard stories. But torture? In earnest?

It’s not even the stuff of James Bond.

It’s outside his purview.

And why the hell would he be tortured by a bloody hotel repairman?

It doesn’t make sense. None of it makes any sense. Yes, he’s suspected there’s more to Jerry, but he thought the man collected ceramic birds or carved animals out of sticks. He’d never once considered the old man to be the type to drug random people and then abscond away with them in a laundry cart.

There’s never been any indication that Jerry is a mole. If he’s an undercover agents, he’s been working a bloody long haul -- and very effectively too. There has never been any indication that Jerry is anything other than a repairman, lonely and earnest but generally benign.

And Billy’s a people person. He can read people. He charms them; that’s what he does.

Not this time apparently.

Billy listens as the cart rolls to a stop. Through the sheet, he can hear the sound of the elevator and he feels the cart bump as he’s wheeled inside. There’s a soft click of a button and then they’re going down.

Billy feels the familiar jerk to the bottom, but it doesn’t stop.

It keeps going.

To the basement.

Billy furrows his brow -- at least, he tries. Even his eyebrows are numb, the damn drugs. He can’t do anything as the elevator stops and he’s rolled out again. The floor is different here -- concrete -- and it smells musty. It’s strangely noisy, with the heavy clank of the HVAC system and the steady whir of machinery. It’s the utility area, Billy assumes. He’s never been here; there’s never been any need.

He’s not sure why there’s a need now.

He’s rolled forward, and Jerry starts whistling again. A door snicks, and Billy’s pushed through another threshold. The temperature drops and the smell increases dramatically. Billy wants to gag, but even that reflex has been horrifyingly muted.

The urge makes him spasm, and he’s trying to breathe through it when the sheet is pulled away and Jerry smiles at him.

“Here we are now,” the old man croons, so friendly that Billy feels a shiver chase up his spine. “Let’s get started, then, shall we?”

-o-

It’s slow and awkward as Jerry hauls him out. Billy’s body is noncompliant, and he can only be idle while he is manhandled up and out of the cart. Jerry nearly drops him once, and Billy’s head is smashed into the canvas of the cart before he is pulled clear. The scene shifts, and Billy’s stomach roils as he is turned and lifted before being deposited on a hard, cold surface.

He can’t shudder, even as his heart starts to pound even more fervently. The ceiling above him is dark and industrial, except for the series of bulbs that hang low from the piping. Billy can still hear the steady hum of machinery nearby. No one will hear them.

Not that Billy can even yell.

“Okay, now,” Jerry says, pushing the cart out of the way and walking around to Billy’s side. He smiles. “Just a bit more before we get started now.”

Started? Billy doesn’t know what that means but he’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to find out. He doesn’t know who the hell this man is, but he’s not some bloody repairman.

Billy wants to leave.

He wants to go back to his flat.

He wants to go back on the damn mission.

He wants to be anywhere but here, and he can’t. He can’t do a damn thing to help himself.

Unaffected by Billy’s distress, Jerry hums amiable, starting to tug at Billy’s tie. “You always look so dapper,” he comments. “But your ties are a bit drab.”

When the tie is gone, Jerry sets to work on his shirt. His fingers are thick but surprisingly nimble. Soon, the vest is flayed open and the shirt after it. Billy’s breath catches as he is rolled to his side while Jerry maneuvers his limp arm free. This is disconcerting, but from this vantage point, Billy realizes it’s just the start of his problems.

Because he’s not alone down here. The surface he’s on is clearly a workspace, and the area seems to be some sort of older workshop. The facility probably used to do more of its work in house, but it’s been abandoned.

Or, it had.

Now the workspaces are covered.

Each one with a body.

There are at least five that Billy can see, some no more than bones, one that still looks vaguely human.

The smell makes sense at least. The stench of rot is barely obscured by crude embalming tools. Jerry isn’t a spy; he doesn’t have a personal vendetta against Billy.

No, Jerry the maintenance man is a bloody maniac.

And Billy’s about to become his next victim.

-o-

The rest of the process is almost tedious. Jerry has to tug hard to get the cuffs of Billy’s shirt from around his wrist, and having the man fiddle with his belt is downright humiliating. Billy’s throat is tight, his eyes burning, when Jerry finally pulls his pants off, leaving Billy in nothing but his boxers under the glaring light.

His skin prickles as Jerry reaches up to the waist of his boxer, and he’s marginally relieved when the man merely adjusts them so they’re a bit more comfortable.

Jerry smiles down at him. “Don’t want you to get the wrong idea here,” he says with a wink.

Billy is incredulous. The wrong idea. That at least Billy won’t be sexually assaulted before he is killed?

As it is, this can’t be happening. Maybe this is a dream. This has to be a dream. Maybe he fell asleep up in his flat; hell, maybe he’s still in Michael’s car on the way home from the airport. Maybe he’s still on the mission; maybe he took a hit to the head and is in a coma.

The idea of brain damage has never been more appealing.

Because this isn’t happening.

He squeezes his eyes shut and forces himself to breathe.

Billy’s not naked and immobilized in the basement of his hotel, about to be murdered by his repairman. That doesn’t happen. Not to spies. Not to people like Billy.

He opens his eyes.

And sees Jerry, holding a small, thin knife up in the light. The blade glints; Billy’s heart stutters.

Jerry nods, all but grinning. “All ready now.”

Billy closes his eyes again.

-o-

It doesn’t stop.

Eyes open, eyes closed, the nightmare stays the same.

Jauntily, Jerry puts the knife down, somewhere above Billy’s head before grabbing another. He holds each piece up to the light, squinting as he inspects it.

“I’ve always been one to take care of my tools,” he says, as he polishes one of the blades. “You can’t be too careful with that sort of thing.” He stops, tapping the knife to his temple knowingly. “It’s that kind of attention to detail that can save your life.”

It’s almost mocking -- it’s basically taunting -- except Jerry’s entirely genuine. That’s the horribly confusing part of it all. Jerry is still Jerry: friendly and companionable, endearing and sweet. He’s entirely good natured as he prepares to eviscerate Billy in a room full of corpses.

Jerry shrugs, putting the knife down and picking up what looks like a scalpel.

“And that’s not to say I’m a neat freak or something,” he continues, as though wary of condescension. “I mean, I like a place that feels lived in -- homey.”

Billy strains vainly, attempting to rally his strength, to pool his resolve, to do something---

“That’s why you caught my attention, really,” Jerry says with a wide smile. “Your room, it always felt lived in. All the other rooms, they were so sterile and generic. People stayed in them, but no one lived there. You got to have some clutter; it adds life to things.”

Billy’s chest hitches, but that’s the most he can do. His body is dead to him, a leaden weight he can’t even.

“And place like this, everyone comes and goes,” Jerry says with a sigh as he puts down the scalpel. He looks right at Billy, who has no choice but to look back. “I just wonder, what’s the point? Why doesn’t anybody stay? It’s the staying that counts; the staying that makes us human.”

The irony is not lost on Billy, though it is something of a lost cause on Jerry. Wistful, avuncular Jerry, who just wants a place to feel at home, who wants people around him to make him feel like he belongs.

In that, Billy’s always felt a kindred spirit.

Except Billy doesn’t strive for it by kidnapping people and then murdering them.

It is one way to get them to say.

Billy thinks about the decomposing bodies and feels his eyes fill with tears.

Jerry pats him on the shoulder. “I know, son,” he soothes. “I know how you don’t like going on those business trips. I see how they wear you out. But no more. You’ll get to stay, now. You’ll get to belong. You and me, for as long as we want.”

-o-

This isn’t happening.

It can’t be happening.

Billy’s too good of a spy for this to be happening. He’s too smart; he’s too clever; he’s too everything. Hell, he’s too pretty -- he has too much he wants to do. He wants to go on more missions, drink more scotch, woo more women. He wants to be with his team; he wants to earn his ticket back home.

It can’t be happening.

His heart is thudding now, resounding almost painfully in his ears. He’s not even numb anymore; his body is just gone -- the distant sensation entirely cut off below his neck. He can open and shut his eyes, but that’s it.

That’s it.

For all his training, for all he’s survived, it’s come to this.

He’s going to die.

And no one will know. Casey’s probably at home, meditating. Rick’s likely called his mother and settled down for the night. Michael is probably sitting in front of the TV with a beer and his mission report. When Michael comes by in the morning, it’ll be too late.

Billy will be gone.

Billy will be gone.

Jerry clucks his tongue, nodding in apparent self-satisfaction. “Think that about covers it,” he comments. Then he turns his eyes from his pristine set of tools back to Billy. “Don’t know about you, son, but I’m really looking forward to this.”

Then, just like that, it is happening.

-o-

Jerry starts with the scalpel. It’s a delicate instrument, designed for precision. Billy’s always thought Jerry to be a skilled repairman, fixing things even when they simply seem beyond repair. He has a surprisingly light touch in such areas, and Billy’s always joked that he must have medical training in his history.

Precision or skill or refinement aside, the first cut hurts.

It’s a careful, controlled cut across the exposed flesh of his abdomen. He feels the skin split, hot blood well up against his exposed skin. He’s not sure how he’s feeling pain -- his body is a leaden weight, useless and empty -- but it cuts through the dimmed sensation and floods his brain.

His throat tightens, but he’s unable to cry out. He wants to pull in on himself, but it is impossible. He is hopelessly exposed.

Jerry straightens for a moment, smiling in satisfaction. “There,” he says, lifting the bloody scalpel. “The first cut always makes me nervous.” He chuckles. “It gets easier from here.”

And then he bends over and cuts again.

-o-

It’s agonizingly slow. Each cut is meticulous and careful, tracing imaginary lines up and down his body. They intersect on his stomach, cutting up through his chest and trailing down his arms. The blood is everywhere now, all over Jerry’s fingertips as he positions himself for a better look in the wan light.

These cuts aren’t deep -- they’re not likely to kill him -- but somehow Billy thinks that’s a moot point. Blood loss can kill him eventually, or even just starvation and dehydration. He thinks about the other bodies here, wondering how they expired. If they wasted away under the terror of Jerry’s carving. If it was a slow, horrible death, one that was drawn out carefully for days on end.

For his part, Jerry is entirely good natured about it still. He whistles happy tunes, muttering snatches of lyrics Billy almost recognizes through the growing horror in his mind.

This could go on for hours; days. If Jerry does it right, it could last weeks.

But that might work in Billy’s favor. His team could find him in that time. His team would.

There’s something to that, and as Billy feels the scalpel flay open the skin on his leg, he feels more than blood blossom. There’s hope. As horrifying, as traumatic, as wrong as this all is, maybe it doesn’t have to end like this.

Maybe it doesn’t have to end at all.

But then Jerry steps back and puts the scalpel down. He nods. “Looks like we’re done with the first part,” he says. He reaches over and picks up one of the other knives, a bigger one with a blade that glints ominously in the light. “Here we go, then. Don’t worry, son. We’ll have you fixed up in no time!”

Then the knife comes down, burying itself all the way through Billy’s hand.

Unable to scream, Billy closes his eyes and starts to cry.

-o-

Jerry leaves the knife in, putting another through his other hand. He saws off one of Billy’s little toes, grimacing with disdain as blood squirts him in the face.

“You’re a messy one,” Jerry comments as he wipes off the smudge of blood, tossing Billy’s pinky toe to the side. “I knew that, though. I seen how you live.” He taps the bloody knife to his head, winking at Billy. “That’s what makes you special. It’s one of the reasons why I picked you.”

Billy mentally seethes, but it does him no good. The drug still has a firm hold on him, and it’s all he can do to open and close his eyes amid the horror. It’s all he can do.

And Jerry cuts again.

-o-

Billy breathes.

He feels air go in, then pushes it out. He closes his eyes and focuses on that. It’s a simple, anatomical thing. It’s a small semblance of control. It matters.

He’s still breathing, even while Jerry cuts. The whistling is back, and Billy has lost track of the trails left by the knives now. His body thrums with pain, distant but real. They’ve gone through many of the knives now, but Jerry still has more. It seems ritualistic in this, as though Jerry has an order about it. It’s a macabre, insane sort of OCD, but Billy reckons that killers have their reasons.

It’s mental illness, no doubt, but it probably developed naturally through years of isolation and monotony. A man like Jerry is simple. Most of the time, such people just live quiet lives about themselves with a few close friends.

Without that, though. If there is no anchor, it’s easy to get lost. Billy knows the feeling, for he felt it well when he’d first been exiled from his home. He remembers those weeks, alone and afraid -- he’d turned to drink and women to dull the pain. If Michael hadn’t found him and given him a chance, Billy’s not sure who he’d have become.

Though he’s fairly certain he wouldn’t have become a sadistic, murdering madman. Billy could be wrong about that, but it seems like a safe bet. Not that he hasn’t killed people, but there’s a difference, he tells himself. In the name of national security and self defense.

There has to be a difference.

And really, everyone wants to explain away mad men. They always look for someone to blame.

Billy’s starting to think, however, that some people are just crazy. You can’t explain them. You can’t justify them.

Turns out, sometimes, you can’t even survive them.

-o-

Time grows sluggish.

It could be the drug, but Billy thinks it may be blood loss, too. Even Jerry seems weary as he steps back and wipes bloody hands on his shirtfront.

“You’ve always been so nice to me,” he says, fondly now. “You should know that you’ll always have a place to belong with me.”

He says it as a promise, a comfort even.

Billy’s stomach goes cold. For this is a promise -- a comfort of death.

In this life, Billy has failed many times. He has fallen short, been found wanting. He is not truly a good man, and he’s not even the best spy. He’s lucky, in all the ways he has no right to be, and he is lazy, in all the ways he shouldn’t.

Maybe he deserves this. Maybe it’s better him here than someone else. Better than Doug or Ericka. Better than Michael or Casey or Rick.

Better than countless people, because in the end, who is Billy anyway? What will he leave behind? HIs teammates will be upset, but they’ll move on. It’s not like there’s ever been anyone to visit his grave, so maybe it’s better this way.

Jerry picks up a fresh knife, the blade nearly six inches long. He holds it over Billy, as if inspecting it. “Most people don’t understand,” he says thoughtfully. “But I know you. I’ve seen it in your eyes. You and I, we’re alike. It doesn’t take much to bring a good man to this point. I’m doing you a favor because this way, you’ll never have to find out for yourself.”

Better, Billy thinks.

But not any easier.

-o-

The whistling finally stops, but the quiet is no respite. Billy can hear his own breathing even as Jerry leans closer to him, eyes sweeping over his blood-soaked body. He seems to be calculating something, and he shifts his position with a self-satisfied nod before he stands.

“The blood tells us who we are,” he says. “And you’re telling me a story, son.”

Billy can’t fight; Billy can’t even look away.

Jerry brings the knife upright, resting it lightly over the flesh of Billy’s exposed throat.

“Now it’s time to tell the rest of it,” Jerry says as Billy closes his eyes. “Once and for all.”

-o-

In a moment, Billy sees everything. He sees himself as a boy, growing up in Scotland. He sees his father’s drunken hand and hears his mother’s gentle voice. He’s at school, getting into trouble. He’s at university, sleeping with someone else’s girl. He’s joining MI6, all flash and bravado. He’s coming to America, disgraced and alone.

Except none of these are what Billy had thought. His father had been a bad man, and his mother had been loyal to a fault. He’d made a scene of himself at school because it was the only attention he’d ever got. The girls who slept with him never stayed for him, and the entire ordeal at MI6 had been a mess. The only chance he’d ever had to make something of himself was with the CIA, and yet after six year he still lived in a bloody rented flat, living among strangers.

Billy can charm anyone, but this isn’t a gift. It’s a curse. Billy can make everyone fall in love with him, but no one will stay with him. He knows people, but he doesn’t know himself. He’s smart and bright and too stupid to fix the things that matter most.

This is his fault.

This is a fitting end.

Mostly, though, Billy realizes, this is just the end.

-o-

The blade breaks the skin.

Billy’s heart stutters.

And then--

Nothing.

The pressure abates, and there’s a soft rustle and a clatter. Then, someone swears in a taut, choked voice.

“Get it together, Martinez. Step back if you need to.”

“Threat is neutralized. But I’m starting to wonder if we should make that permanent.”

Hands touch his face, turning his head. Billy’s eyes flutter open and he sees Michael.

Michael’s brow is creased, but he smiles. “Billy? You with me?”

Billy blinks, confused. He’s still in the basement; he can still see the corpses just behind Michael and Casey and Rick. He’s still immobilized and bleeding.

And yet…

He looks at Michael again and wants to reply. He tries to nod.

When nothing happens, he blinks his eyes, feeling a tear slip free.

Michael’s hand is firm as it cups his cheek, patting him reassuringly. “I hear you, buddy,” he says. “I hear you.”

It’s a fight Billy doesn’t realize he’s been fighting, but with his friends there, he feels his strength dwindle. Consciousness is ebbing now, fleeting from him faster than he can hold it. He doesn’t know how he held on so long. Funny, he hardly realized he was hanging on at all.

There’s no need now. Now that he’s safe. Now that his friends are here.

Now that he finally has someplace where he well and truly belongs.

In the end, the darkness is a welcome refuge.

-o-

When he wakes, he is immediately aware of several things.

First, he’s alive. That’s a wonderful thing that fills him with heady relief. He’s alive.

Second, he can move. He moves his fingers first and when they clench into a first, he lifts his arms and rolls his head.

Third, he’s not alone.

Given what he’s been through, this may be disconcerting. But the presence is familiar, and Michael’s smirk is definitely an improvement, all things considered.

He swallows. His throat feels dry, and he still feels weak. The elation from being alive and mobile is dampened by the gnawing pain, but in some ways it’s still a welcomed change of pace.

But then he thinks about what happened.

He really thinks about it.

Wetting his lips, he asks, “Did I really just about get killed by my maintenance man?”

Michael chuckles dryly. “As a matter of fact, you did,” he says.

Billy makes a face. “I am never going to live this down.”

Michael shrugs. “Martinez was too terrified to give you a hard time about it,” he says. “But Casey may be drawing up additional training regimens for you when you get out of here.”

Billy makes a face. “I probably have that coming,” he says.

“If it makes you feel any better, it wasn’t all your fault,” Michael says. “The sedative he gave you was the real deal. Once that was in your bloodstream, you didn’t have a chance.”

“Well, sure,” Billy says. “But I let the bloke get the one up on me. I swear to God, Michael, I never saw it coming.”

“The man’s a serial killer, Billy,” Michael says. “The police recovered a dozen bodies down there, and they’re already looking into leads for secondary sites. No one saw it coming.”

“But that’s my job,” Billy says emphatically. “How many missions have we based around my ability to read people?

“More than I’d like to recount right now,” Michael comments wryly. “But I wouldn’t beat yourself up about it too much.”

“I was nearly killed by a maintenance man,” Billy reminds him.

“Yeah,” Michael says, making a face. “So much for you being a good judge of character.”

“Aye,” Billy says miserably. He pauses, looking down over his hospital bed. He’s covered in bandages, including two heavy ones wrapped about his hands. He looks a bit like a mummy, and he hates to think about the scars after this. Sighing, he looks back up at Michael. “I reckon I owe you thanks.”

“Eh, you pulling through is thanks enough,” Michael says. “When we got there, when we saw that place -- I was pretty sure we’d be too late.”

Billy shakes his head. “How did you know anyway?”

“Well, you’re not the only one who can read people,” Michael says. “You texted me. Mostly gibberish, and normally I might think it was a mistake, but not from you. I knew something was wrong. I saw the mess at your place and got the guys together. It took us the better part of the night to find you, though. I’m sorry we weren’t faster.”

“I’m just thankful you showed up when you did,” Billy says. “And it turns out I’m not the only people person on the team.”

Michael rolls his eyes. “Reading people is easy,” he says. “That’s never been your thing. You can charm people. It’s not about knowing them, it’s about getting them to do what you want.”

“I’m still not sure how that worked out for me in this case,” Billy says ruefully.

“Well, you charmed the guy into killing you,” he says. “That’s something, isn’t it?”

Billy’s frown deepens. “I’m actually not sure it does.”

Michael sighs. “Picky, picky,” he mumbles. “What about the fact that it looks like you’ll be getting some time off after all?”

At that, Billy brightens. “You may have a point there.”

“See,” Michael says, sitting back contentedly. “Back to the bright side of things.”

-o-

Recovery is slow.

It is also quite painful.

His injuries are mostly superficial, although his hands do require surgery. He’s given an optimistic prognosis, but he finds the therapy wearing and keeping a buoyant smile for the doctors is tiresome. His sleep is plagued with nightmares, and he finds himself looking over his shoulder and startling at every crash.

This is something of PTSD, Billy knows, and he also knows if he can’t get ahold of it, he’ll end up with a psychologist before getting cleared again. That’s not easy, but there are worse things. If he can survive a serial killer, he can survive this, too.

He sees snatches of news reports, but the press is mercifully kept away. The police question him at length, and he learns that Jerry isn’t actually much more than he appeared. Billy was right about him in many ways. He was lonely without much to live for. In his loneliness, he took the lives of others, at least a dozen in Virginia and possibly more in other areas where he used to live. They credit him for alerting his friends in time. It saved his life -- and probably the lives of others.

It’s still an odd thing to think about, a serial killer right in front of him all this time. He wonders about the lives of other people, the things he doesn’t know. He and Jerry have their secrets, which is what makes them alike. But the nature of their secrets -- that Billy saves lives and Jerry takes them -- is the important defining difference.

Billy messed up this time, and he’s paying the price. But it is difficult to stay upset too long with his team around.

They take turns, taking turns and trading jibes with one another. Michael is a calm, steady presence. Rick is nervous and clingy, and the most overtly affectionate as he brings flowers and balloons to cheer the place up. Casey glares at him a lot, but sits closer than he needs to and Billy understands.

Because he knows his team.

And they know him.

It’s a place where he belongs, and Billy knows that’s the thing that matters most.

end

A/N: Prompt was serial killers. See my table here

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: December 27th, 2013 04:10 am (UTC)

Wow...I'm literally physically and emotionally exhausted! This was terrifying! Even knowing that Billy was going to be rescued, it couldn't happen fast enough. Intense, uncomfortable, scary in all of the best ways. You also did a great job of paralleling Billy's life to Jerry's. It was seductively sad. Of course, the deeply demented in me really enjoyed the torture and utter helplessness you put Billy through.

Fave part:

In this life, Billy has failed many times. He has fallen short, been found wanting. He is not truly a good man, and he’s not even the best spy. He’s lucky, in all the ways he has no right to be, and he is lazy, in all the ways he shouldn’t.

Maybe he deserves this. Maybe it’s better him here than someone else. Better than Doug or Ericka. Better than Michael or Casey or Rick.

Better than countless people, because in the end, who is Billy anyway? What will he leave behind? HIs teammates will be upset, but they’ll move on. It’s not like there’s ever been anyone to visit his grave, so maybe it’s better this way.

-- this is such a sad perception that Billy has of himself and yet you can believe he feels truly expendable. It pulled at my heart strings. Loved it!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 13th, 2014 03:04 am (UTC)
billy guitar

I'm glad I managed to pull of the creepiness. This was one I put off because I liked the idea but never felt good about how I was writing it. I wanted to do it justice.

Thanks!

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