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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: Slings and Arrows (1/1)

December 27th, 2013 (08:46 pm)
geeky
Tags: ,

feeling: geeky

Title: Slings and Arrows

Disclaimer: I don’t own Chaos.

A/N: So I don’t even like this fic very much but I need it to fill my tyranny/rebellion square for hc_bingo. Beta thanks to sockie1000.

Summary: That was one hell of a nightmare.



-o-

Michael was a light sleeper. He'd always been that way, even as a kid. He used to wake up whenever the house shifted or his sister tried to sneak out the back door. In college, he'd taken mostly to never sleeping whenever possible, and as a spy, he'd found himself increasingly too paranoid to get decent rest anyway. He'd been better with Fay -- she'd insisted they sleep in the same bed -- but after the divorce, Michael had found fewer reasons to sleep.

He was simply too aware. It was too hard to turn his brain off. He would wake up suddenly with a brilliant tactical insight. He would startle to consciousness with the pressing need to contact an asset in Beirut. He woke up when it started to rain; he would hear noises and have to check every window and every door, until he was satisfied that everything was safe.

So when he woke up abruptly at 3 AM in a motel room in Athens, it wasn't without precedence.

First, he wondered if he'd overlooked something. Maybe he'd forgotten to check the perimeter. Maybe he'd neglected to confirm the checkpoint with the asset. Maybe he'd missed a call to Langley.

But he hadn't.

Everything was fine. The mission was fine.

Then he heard the noise, a small inhalation. It was strained; almost panicked.

Bolting upright, Michael reached for the weapon he kept under his pillow, ready to strike. But the room was still. The windows were closed. The door was locked.

Then, a whimper.

Uncertain, Michael looked over to the other bed where Billy was sleeping. The Scot was a gifted sleeper, able to drop off whenever he wanted for however long he wanted. He was often dead to the world, and Michael usually had to roll him on the floor just to get him to wake up.

In the darkness, Michael watched as Billy's chest hitched again, as his breathing increased another notch. His face contorted, and he started to trembles, his lips moving soundlessly in apparent distress.

Concerned, Michael threw back his covers, moving toward the other bed. "Billy?" he asked. "Collins?"

Billy's breathing caught again, this time almost strangled in his throat. He tossed his head to the side, legs kicking restlessly. "No," the Scot mumbled. "No, no, no, no."

Michael frowned, reaching down to touch the other man's shoulder. There was no visible reason for Billy to be so distressed, and in all their years sharing motel rooms, he'd never seen the man react this way before. Mentally, Michael was already going through the possible reasons -- a psychological trigger, an external agent, a foreign substance in his system -- as he shook Billy's shoulder. "Collins," he said again, a little louder now. "Billy."

Billy didn't seem to hear him, though, his head shaking as his distress increased. "I can't," he murmured, his breathing rushed and forced. "God, please, I can't."

Michael's grip tightened. "Billy, wake up," he said, trying to keep his own panic under control. Because he accounted for everything, but he hadn't accounted for this. He didn't even know what this was, which was probably why it was starting to scare the hell out of him. "Billy!"

Billy thrashed now, his entire body bucking as he opened his mouth and let out a keening yell. "I can't, I can't, I can't!" he said, almost begging now. Tears leaked from his eyes as he sobbed. "Please!"

Michael's stomach was almost turned inside out, and he felt his own precarious state of control start to slip. Something was wrong; something was very, very wrong, and if Michael didn't figure it out soon, he was going to have to get help. Because whatever was going on, Billy needed to wake up.

Desperate, Michael bent over, half sitting on the bed as he pushed Billy's other shoulder down to the mattress in an attempt to keep the Scot from hitting him. "Damn it, Billy," he hissed, wondering if he could call Casey and Simms. If he needed to call a damn ambulance or a team from Langley. "I need you to wake the hell up--"

Billy inhaled sharply, and just like that his eyes opened. Eyes wide and dilated, there was a look of abject horror on Billy's face even before recognition dawned. At that point, Billy's horror mixed with humiliation as his face balled up and he made a visible effort to control himself. "Michael?" he asked, sounding young -- too damn young -- and terrified.

Still holding fast, Michael didn't look away. "Billy?"

Billy swallowed hard, his face still trembling. Michael could feel the younger man's heart pounding. "I--" Billy started and then faltered. "What happened?"

Michael eased his grip just slightly. "I was hoping you could tell me."

Breathing heavily, Billy blinked rapidly a few times. "I reckon...," he started, letting out a tremulous breath. "I reckon it was a nightmare."

Michael let go, sitting back on the bed skeptically. "That was one hell of a nightmare."

Billy grimaced, pulling himself to a sitting position. "Aye," he said. "My apologies for waking you."

Michael grunted. "I'm not sure waking me up is really what you should be apologizing for," he said. "Besides, I know you. You don't just have nightmares."

"To the contrary," Billy said. "My over-active imagination has always been known to conjure up strange things in the dark."

Michael shook his head; Billy was deflecting. "You were thrashing," he said. "You probably woke up the neighbors."

Billy's eyes darted down. "Well, let's just say I don't usually have nightmares like that."

"Exactly," Michael said. "So what the hell happened? Did you eat something? Did someone get you alone? Maybe when you were making contact with the asset -- there are a lot of types of hypnosis that can be applied pretty quick--"

Billy shook his head. "No, nothing--"

"Well, something happened," Michael interjected. "If you've been compromised, we can fix it. We can figure it out. We can--"

Billy shook his head, more adamant now. "Nothing like that," he said.

Michael felt his frustration mount. "You weren't just having a nightmare, Billy," he said. "You were having a meltdown in your sleep. This sort of thing happens in the spy game. There's nothing to be ashamed about--"

Billy sighed. "Just listen--"

"Let me help you--"

"If you'd listen--"

"We might need to take you in--"

"Michael, for God's sake," Billy interjected, eyes bright now. "I wasn't compromised. At least, not on this bloody mission."

Michael noticed the sharpness in Billy's voice, and tread carefully. "This mission?"

Billy sighed. "This was a nightmare," he said.

"And you know this...?"

"Because I know exactly what I was dreaming," Billy told him. "And exactly why."

Michael regarded him uncertainly.

Billy reached up, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "Maybe we should make coffee," he suggested. "This may take a while."

-o-

With the lamp on and the coffee started, Billy was curled up in one of the chairs. He mostly looked away, even as Michael sat across from him with a steady, unwavering gaze. "So?" he prompted.

Billy chewed his lip. "So," he replied.

"You going to talk or am I going to send you back to Langley for a psych eval?"

Billy's face reddened. "I was dreaming about a small country in Africa," he said. "It's name has changed so many times that I've lost count. I had a mission there about ten years ago."

"Before you left MI6?" Michael asked.

Billy's expression was stricken. "It was why I left MI6."

Michael lifted his eyebrows. "You've always made jokes about that."

"I know you, of all people, never bought that," Billy said.

Michael shrugged. "I know more than I let on, maybe," he said.

"I was assigned to an asset. A young woman in the provisional government," he explained. "She was providing good intelligence about terrorist affiliations."

"Sounds like a good source," Michael observed.

"The best," Billy agreed. "Until the entire government was deposed and replaced with military rule. I was told to cut ties and get out...." Billy's expression turned far off, almost wistful.

"But you had other ideas?" Michael prompted.

Billy pressed his lips together, looking at his hands. "I was young. I had made promises. I wanted to help."

"But that wasn't part of the UK's agenda," Michael concluded.

Billy looked up, almost sheepish. "I thought I could make it work," he said. "I thought I could help her cement a rebellion and leave. The UK had no ties with the military rule. The civilian government was better for stability. I had thought that providing a little extra help and a little extra intel would just be a good investment."

"You cared for the asset, didn't you?"

Billy smiled a small, distant smile. "I reckoned I loved her," he said.

Of course he had. That was the way Billy would go about something -- always making something harder than it had to be. "So what happened?"

Billy blanched. "I was caught."

"By MI6?"

Billy looked at him with haunted eyes. "By the military," he said. "They took my asset, too, and tortured us both. They sentenced us both to death, and MI6 disavowed me. I was finally traded back to the UK in some underhanded prisoner exchange."

Michael kept his face neutral. "And your asset?"

"She was one of the first people executed under the military government," he said, studying his hands intently now. "It was gruesome and it was public. Mostly, though, it was my fault."

It was Michael's turn to sigh. "What we do is messy--"

"I never should have been involved," Billy said, shaking his head.

"We make calls in the field--"

"I got her killed," Billy said, turning his eyes up again. They were glassy with unshed tears. "So when MI6 said they were going to bring me up on charges or let me go, I decided to go without a fight." He shrugged weakly. "I didn't see much point in fighting anymore."

It made sense; it wasn't the type of boyish recklessness that warranted a grin and a wink, but it was the stupid, passionate choices of a spy who got too close. It was always tempting in their line of work -- to try to do everything. To be the hero, to be a savior, to keep your promises. This was why Michael prided himself on being a right bastard -- and why he forced his team to do the same. Bastards did what needed to be done.

Spies had to be bastards, or they just ended up dead.

"You were young," Michael said.

"I was stupid," Billy replied.

Michael didn't correct him. "So if that was the nightmare," he said instead. "Why now?"

"Our arms dealer," Billy said. "He moves his shipment how?"

"A network through Africa," Michael replied. "Using a lot of smaller, corrupt governments that are just looking for a paycheck..." He stopped short as he realized. "He ships through your small African country?"

"Many times removed, yes," Billy said. "Most of the military heads have changed, but the one coming to town next week. The one trying to close this deal..."

"You know him?" Michael realized.

Billy nodded soberly. "He's the one who extracted a tortured confession from my asset," he said. "He's the one who made sure we were both sentenced to die."

Michael looked away, shaking his head. "You should have told me."

"You would have pulled me out!" Billy objected.

"Yeah, and with good reason!" Michael snapped back.

"I have to do this--"

"The hell you do," Michael said. "Billy, you already got kicked out of one Agency over this. You can't do it again."

"I'm going to do it right this time," Billy said.

"You're not going to do it at all."

"You can't keep me from this," Billy said, his voice rising.

"I have to keep you from this," Michael said.

"This is personal."

"Exactly," Michael said. "You can't even get through the night without this messing you up. And tell me again how well this went last time for you?"

"It's different now--"

"Yeah," Michael said. "Because you've got someone here who is smart enough to stop you."

Billy looked desperate. "But this is my chance--"

"To shut the hell up and do it right," Michael said.

"Michael, please--"

"Absolutely not."

"Michael, you have to let me--"

"Or what?" Michael asked. "You'll go behind my back?"

"I don't want to--"

"I'd never let you," Michael said. "I'll send you back home in restraints before I let you go out there and screw up your life again -- or worse."

"So I just have to sit on the sidelines?" Billy said, indignant. "And do nothing?"

"Pretty much," Michael said. "If you promise to be good, I'll let you play backup, but you're not going near this."

"That's not fair," Billy objected. "If this were you--"

"It wouldn't be me," Michael said.

Billy snorted. "Because you're so much better?"

"Because I'm a bastard and I've always been a bastard," Michael said.

Billy blinked in surprise.

"It's still a skill you're learning," he continued, a bit gentler now. "You still remember the names of the people you've killed. You still believe the promises you tell people. And you still wake up with nightmares from the missions that have gone wrong."

The anger on Billy's face subsided into pain. "I still remember her screams," he said. "She trusted me, and I let her down."

"I know," Michael said, because there was no lie that made that better. "But Carson and Casey and I -- we won't let you down, okay? We're going to get this bastard, and he may not pay for what he did to you and your asset, but he will pay, do you understand?"

He held Billy's gaze, almost unyieldingly. He willed Billy to understand, to see the compassion in the gruffness; the empathy in the orders.

Billy looked agonized; he looked wrecked. Finally, though, he nodded. "Okay."

Michael nodded back. "Okay," he agreed. He got up and got two cups, pouring the coffee. He passed a steaming mug to Billy.

Billy looked at it in surprise. "What's this for? My story -- and my part in this mission -- are apparently over."

"Sure," Michael said, taking a sip. "But I can't stop the nightmares.” He shrugs. “But if you'd like some help in keeping them at bay, I’m probably going to be up anyway."

Realization settled over Billy's features and he took a grateful drink. "I think I'd like that," he said, a small smile on his lips as he took another sip. "I think I'd like that very much."

Comments

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: December 28th, 2013 09:20 am (UTC)
ChaosBilly

You are such a great writer. You make such beautiful, in-depth scenes.

Poor Billy. But we finally know the reason why he left MI6.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 16th, 2014 01:57 am (UTC)
billy watches

Aw, thank you. I never considered this one of my best efforts, but I do love thinking about the angsty ways Billy might have left MI6.

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: December 28th, 2013 09:34 pm (UTC)

This was a great Billy backstory! I love the fact that Billy lost everything for the love of an asset and how the personal responsibility of his promises haunt him. I also love how you portray Michael here. Leader and friend. I can imagine that despite his "bastard" proclamation, Michael understands more than he reveals. Great read, indeed.

Fave part:

Billy thrashed now, his entire body bucking as he opened his mouth and let out a keening yell. "I can't, I can't, I can't!" he said, almost begging now. Tears leaked from his eyes as he sobbed. "Please!"

Michael's stomach was almost turned inside out, and he felt his own precarious state of control start to slip. Something was wrong; something was very, very wrong, and if Michael didn't figure it out soon, he was going to have to get help. Because whatever was going on, Billy needed to wake up.

--You know how I love Billy suffering!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 16th, 2014 01:58 am (UTC)
billy thinks

I will always be sad that we never got to know the canon reason for Billy's deportation. I have millions of theories, though!

Thanks!

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