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Chaos fic: Hanging On (3/3)

January 30th, 2014 (11:04 am)
worried

feeling: worried

Notes and all in the MASTER POST



Billy’s done nothing but lay around all day, and though Michael often chides him for his slothful behavior, Billy doesn’t actually prefer total laziness. Rather, he likes idle activities and restless hobbies. At work, he’s doodling or doing crosswords, stringing together paperclips just because he can. At his flat, he plays guitar or reads his books, perhaps scrawling a few lines of verse on a napkin when the inspiration hits.

Such things are entertaining. They also keep him preoccupied so that he doesn’t dwell on all the things in his life that are not quite well. Billy’s no fool; he knows his circumstances would evoke pity by most standards. But he stands tall and smiles enough that no one dares think that hard.

He has no such defenses here, and the inactivity leaves him drained. Billy’s not one to quit -- he’s had ample opportunity -- but for the first time in a long time, he sort of wants to.

It’s just the solitude, he reminds himself. It’s the interminable silence and the lies he’s had to perpetuate to keep his cover. Talking about the drudgeries of life is depressing -- he’s not sure who decided it’s an appropriate part of therapy. The Scottish are a hearty folk, but without any scotch in sight, Billy’s starting to wonder what the bloody point is anymore.

Which is all to say, quite decisively, that he’s thinking too much. He doesn’t doubt that one of the doe-eyed nurses will be back soon to offer him a small pill to help him sleep, but Billy knows that the medication only makes the malaise worse. Instead, he reaches over, dimming the lights with the switch by his bed. He adjusts the back of the bed until it’s back a bit further, before settling down and drawing the starchy blankets back over his hospital-issue pajamas.

He’s usually a night owl, but given the injuries to his throat and the nonstop emotional probing, he’s ready for some rest. Really, if he’s got another day to get through, letting the hours lapse via unconsciousness sounds more appealing than anything else.

It doesn’t take much after he closes his eyes, and his mind starts to drift. He thinks about his team, about Michael by his side, about Rick back in the safehouse. He thinks about pinning up the poster: that poster changes lives.

The literary irony is roiling, even in his slumber.

When his mind drifts deeper, he finds himself in the back of his father’s car, cradling his broken arm as his father looks back and shakes his head. I don’t intend to spend my life picking you up.

And then Billy’s the kitten, furry and scruffy, claws digging in for dear life, just holding on and holding on and--

He’s startled awake by the door, and he blinks blearily as the white-clad nurse shuffles to his side. He’s slept through the shift change, because the night nurse seems to be here. The man is quiet, at least, and hopefully this will mean fewer pitiful looks. Billy’s dignity could use the boost.

“Just leave the pills,” Billy murmurs while the man fusses at Billy’s bedside. Billy blinks sleepily. “Though just the antibiotic.” He swallows painfully. “And the painkiller.”

There’s no response, and Billy dares to hope it’s that easy. But the man holds out a small cup. “I have to see you take them,” he says, almost apologetic with a heavy accent. “Protocol.”

Billy grumbles, sleep slipping from his mind as he sits up gingerly. There are two pills, both familiar-looking, so he takes the cup and tips it back, the two small pills landing on his tongue.

And that’s when Billy realizes something’s wrong.

Because there are still two hours until shift change, and the man’s ID is all wrong. The pills taste unusually bitter in his mouth, and the man’s uniform doesn’t even fit. These are clear signs he should have picked up on sooner, but he was sleeping and he was tired and--it’s happening again. The attack at the safehouse caught him off guard, and now this.

This.

He shifts the pills, putting them under his tongue and offering up a meager smile. “All done,” he says. “Now if it’s all the same--”

“Open your mouth,” the man says.

Billy hesitates, offering his most winning smile even as he assesses just how bad this is. He’s still weak, and while he only needs one good punch, he’s pretty sure he doesn’t have that much. The room is secure but all he has to do is get out into the hall, cause a commotion. Even a yell might work. Hell, if he can just hit the call button--

His eyes flicker to the side.

And the man lunges.

Billy tries to get away, but he’s too slow. The man clamps a sweaty hand over his mouth, forcing him flat on his back. Billy flails, reaching up with his hands to grab the man’s hard, yanking hard. The man growls and as Billy bucks, fingers trying to scrape at the man’s eyes, the man simply responds by pinching Billy’s nose.

Oxygen deprivation -- it’s a smart tactic. Even trained fighters tend to panic when the air supply is compromised. It’s a feeling Billy knows all too well in this mission, and with the pain igniting in his neck, it’s like deja vu.

He fights harder, but the pills are dissolving. He writhes and pokes, but the bitterness fills his senses. His hands start to feel numb, and his vision blurs. The fight dissipates as he finally swallows, his body sagging beneath the crushing grip of his attacker.

Pleading, his eye search upward, and he meets the man’s dark eyes. They’re familiar, strangely. A piercing gaze across the street.

Over his head.

Billy’d been too slow then.

He’s too slow now.

The moments stretch, and he loses track of time. When he can breathe again, it’s too late. The world is spinning, and his limbs won’t move. He’s vaguely aware that he’s being lifted, but his body goes limp.

He wants to hold on, to hang in there, just like Michael says.

But Billy has nothing left.

So he lets go.

-o-

Michael’s pace is brisk, but he retains a semblance of composure. When he gets to the ward, he pauses, bending over to tie his shoe while he surreptitiously watches someone at the desk. All personnel have to swipe a card. Michael could hang around to snag one, but even then, getting in without a lab coat or scrubs is going to arouse attention. The ward is restricted but not inaccessible. Billy’s only isolated because of the suicide attempt -- longer term patients have guest privileges.

Mind made up, Michael stands up and approaches the desk. He leans against it, smiling broadly as his eyes flit over the charts and the doctor’s flow chart. He lands upon the one on top, and hopes for the best when the nurse asks in the local tongue, “May I help you?”

“Yes,” Michael says, stumbling over the words. “I’m here to visit Mr. Rooyen.”

The nurse gives him a puzzled look.

“Long lost friend,” he replies. “We spent some time together before I moved overseas. I heard he was in here, and while I’m in the country I had to stop by.”

The nurse tilts her head, nodding. “Mr. Rooyen will be glad to have visitors,” she reports. “I take it this is a surprise?”

Michael forces a grin. “Hopefully a good one.”

She smiles congenially, handing him a paper to sign. “Just sign this with the date and time,” she says.

Michael scratches something illegible before handing it back.

“I’m sure it will be a great surprise,” she says, pressing a button on her desk with a smile. She hands him a visitor sticker. “Room 634. Be sure to check with me on your way out.”

Michael nods at her, peeling the sticker and putting it on his shirt. “Thank you,” he says, gratefully ducking inside. Once through the door, he notices the camera and dutifully checks the signs. He moves down the hallway to 634 but quickly veers back, discreetly moving down the opposite direction. He doesn’t know for sure which room Billy’s in, but the note about a 48-hour hold in room 665 fits the bill, so Michael thinks he’ll try there first.

He keeps himself steady, keeping himself calm and to the point. Looking like he belonged is most of the battle, and he passes a pair of nurses with no issue. A doctor gives him a lingering look, but he turns the corner toward 665 and doesn’t look back.

This is probably nothing, he tells himself. This is probably just his paranoia acting up. Billy’s throat’s a mess and the doctors think he’s suicidal, but he’ll be okay.

He has to be okay.

When he gets to the door, he doesn’t hesitate and opens it, expecting to see Billy, more annoyed than surprised, ready to regale him with stories about being locked up in the looney bin.

But the room is empty.

Stomach twisting, Michael goes to the bed, checking the chart. It’s Billy’s alias, so Michael has the right room. Chewing his lip, he looks around, considering. Billy could be out. Billy is social, after all. He might have gotten restless and convinced a doctor to let him out for a bit. But on a 48-hour hold, the staff isn’t likely to give him much leeway, no matter how charming he may be.

No, Billy should be here, in this bed, safe.

Panic barely at bay, Michael looks over the room again. The bed is a mess, clearly slept in -- but the blanket is on the floor. There’s an empty dixie cup on the floor and an unopened bottle of water by the bed. It’s not necessarily ominous, but none of it sits right. Anxiety building, Michael picks up Billy’s chart again, quickly sorting through the notes. The nurses have already made their rounds, based on the time intervals listed so far, but there’s no notation from Billy’s last scheduled checkup. There’s an appointment with the psychiatrist slated in another two hours, presumably at the start of evening rounds. There are no notes for other tests or scans to be performed and all the statistics suggest that Billy’s physically recovering just fine.

Michael frowns, putting the chart back. Meals would be brought to him. He moves toward the far side of the room and opens the door to see the empty and undisturbed bathroom.

Billy’s gone.

The realization is numbing, and his mind flashes back to the gruesome scene at Thomas’ house. If someone has come for Billy, they won’t get him very far -- not out of a locked ward. Even if the attacker has real or borrowed credentials at the hospital, there are too many security checkpoints on the way out.

That doesn’t mean Billy’s safe. They don’t have to actually get Billy out of the hospital to kill him -- but why not just kill him here? Inject him with something or smother him with a pillow? That’s the point, after all. To leave Billy as a message for Michael to feel guilty about?

Michael looks over the room again, hoping for any hint or clue before looking out the window, scanning the rooftops, desperate for some clue where Billy may be. Where would someone take Billy for Michael to find? Where could someone take Billy without getting stopped by security? Even if credential will get someone into a ward, getting out of a hospital is easier said than done.

Out the window, the city moves on, and Michael glances up.

Rooftops.

Michael’s mind stops, his heart nearly thudding to a halt. There is another way out of the hospital; there is another way down.

The roof.

This is a trauma center; the staff elevator would have direct access to the roof and the security checkpoint there would be minimal -- if anything. It’s probably considered a light security risk -- there aren’t many ways off a roof, not without a well timed helicopter.

Except one.

-o-

The air is cool against Billy’s face, and the light breeze makes him shudder. He breathes in, almost choking when his damaged throat constricts. The pain makes him convulse slightly, and he’s surprised when someone scoops him up from behind, propping him up against something until he’s in a seated position.

Billy tries to help, but finds himself unable. When he tries to lift his head, it merely rocks back limply and whoever is there has to put a steady hand on his shoulder to keep him upright.

Despite his best intentions, Billy’s eyes are slipping shut again, even as someone takes his hand.

At first, he thinks maybe it’s one of his teammates. But there’s no encouragement, no friendly reminder that all will be well. Instead, something cylindrical is pressed into his palm and his fingers are wrapped purposefully around it until he’s being forced to hold it.

It doesn’t make sense, and Billy’s struggling to point his eyes in the right direction when his head is promptly tipped back toward the sky. The day is waning, and his field of vision ebbs as his consciousness slips again.

The touch shifts, and calloused fingers pry open his jaw. He tries to move, but the impulses don’t make it very far. He tries to speak, but all that comes out is a whimper, which is cut short when something is dumped in his mouth.

The round shape tastes chalky on his tongue -- and there’s enough to overload his senses and gag him. He tries to thrash, but before he can even tip his head forward again, tepid water is poured into his mouth. The onslaught is too much. The liquid floods his mouth, clogging his throat as it takes the pills with it. Convulsing, stars explode behind his eyes as his jaw is forced shut again and he has no choice but to swallow.

The first swallow hurts, straining against his damaged throat. The second isn’t much better, and the third leaves him spent as he surrenders to the inevitability of it.

He knows this is bad. He knows this is very bad.

Weak and drugged, though, Billy’s not sure there’s anything he can do about it.

The pressure on his jaw eases, and without the hand in place, Billy’s head lolls forward. He has to work to lift it again, eyes struggling to focus on the man in front of him.

The eyes are the same, but this time the cold smile made him shudder.

At least, it would have, if he’d had the ability to move.

“I want you to know, this isn’t about you,” the man says in careful English. “Michael Dorset started something a long time ago; I am merely the one to see it through.”

Billy furrows his brow faintly, trying to ask why. His breathing hitches, a small mewl the only sound he manages to produce.

“I realize this seems laborious,” the man tells him, almost apologetic. “You will not have to wait any longer, though.”

Billy’s confusion mounts, but the grip on him shifts and his head drops back limply again. He’s struggling to find his bearings when the rough hands grab him under the armpits and lift him up. The movement is jarring, and Billy’s stomach flips even as his heavy limbs hang uselessly. He’s being dragged backward but it all stops abruptly and he’s hoisted higher.

The movement has him perched on something hard, and he slumps forward while the man adjusts his grip. For a second, Billy’s head is pressed against his chest so close that he can hear the steadiness of his heartbeat before he’s shifted again.

There’s nothing to support him this time, and when he flops back, he’s buffeted by a gust of wind. The man has him by the wrists, and Billy’s body is twisted limply as his eyes finally focus.

And he sees the ground.

A few hundred feet down.

Sluggish as he is, Billy still understands. He understands the fresh air; understands why he won’t have to wait any longer. He understands that this ends with him smashed and broken against the pavement.

He understands that he can’t even fight it.

His body refuses to respond, and things are dim. Gravity is pulling him, and his dead fingers can’t even search for purchase.

It seems like a bad way to go; it seems unfair. To survive so much, just to go like this. And Michael...

Just hang in there.

But Billy can’t. There’s nothing he can do, and he wonders idly about the stupid kitten, if it holds on because it wants to stay up or if it’s just scared to fall.

Billy will never know.

-o-

Michael waits until he signs out of the ward and slips into a stairwell before he starts to run. Then he takes the stairs two at a time, lunging with every bit of energy he has. As he passes the ninth floor, he almost trips, hitting his shins on the cement, but he barely feels the pain -- and he doesn’t slow down.

He’s been too late every step so far. He can’t be too late now. He can’t.

The signs for the roof have warnings about restricted access, but Michael makes quick work of the lock. He knows that he’s probably tripped a security sensor at some point, but he doesn’t care. Instead, he flings the door open, bursting into the fading daylight.

He’s panting, and it’s only now that he’s standing exposed, he remembers that he’s actually unarmed. Not only that, he has no plan of attack. He’s been so set on finding Billy that he hasn’t thought any of this through. It’s sort of a terrifying revelation. Michael’s spent his career knowing exactly what’s coming next, controlling all the pieces to dictate the outcome, but time time, he feels like just another piece on a chessboard, hoping not to lose any more of his pawns.

It’s stupid; he’s probably going to get himself killed and be no use to any of his team, much less Billy.

But Michael’s going to see this through.

Blood rushing in his ears, Michael turns, frantically searching the roof top. He jogs across the helipad, moving around toward another outcropping toward the front of the building --

And there’s Billy.

The Scot is perched precariously on the ledge, body limp and face slack as someone props him up and starts to shift him back.

“No!” Michael yells, breaking into a run, but he has to come to a skidding halt when the figure stops, yanking Billy off the ledge and holding him in front with one arm around his neck.

The other hand is holding a gun -- pointed straight at Billy’s head.

Billy doesn’t seem aware of it -- his eyes open and close intermittently, and his knees seem weak. It’s entirely likely that the only thing keeping him upright is the arm around his neck. Still, despite the lack of awareness, Michael can see no other injuries, which is a small bit of relief.

The relief, however, stops there.

Because Billy’s still basically insensate and he’s got a gun to his head while standing next to the edge of a very tall building. Michael has no weapons, no leverage -- nothing that can possibly secure his release. Any move he makes can be easily counteracted -- to Billy’s detriment.

Helpless, Michael looks at the man. At first glance, Michael doesn’t know him. He has dark skin and thick black hair. His deep eyes are penetrating and his expression borders on mirthful.

“Hello, Operative,” he says.

Michael keeps very still, narrowing his gaze to focus on the man more clearly. “Do we know each other?”

“Not directly,” the man replies, adjusting his grip slightly on Billy. “However, in your line of work, most connections are tenuous, yes? A friend of a friend. The enemy of your enemy.”

Expression neutral, Michael cocks his head slightly, studying the man closer. He’s got a good memory for these sorts of things -- for everything, really -- but he’s pretty sure that he hasn’t met this man before. But there’s still something familiar about him, something innately recognizable that Michael can’t quite put together.

This man knows him -- knows him as CIA, knows his safehouse and his mission. It fits the profile Michael’s been building -- someone with unfinished business, someone who he’s worked with before, maybe someone who he’s screwed over before. That’s a long list, though. It had to be someone from a previous bust -- that’s the only way he’d be able to identify him by face and connect him to the CIA.

Cautious, Michael shrugs. “I tend to assume that everyone is my enemy,” he says. “And since you’ve been killing my contacts here, I’m safe in assuming that we’re not friends?”

The man’s lips curl into a sinister smile. “You told me we were once,” he says. “Mr. Jones? Though I do not think that is really your name.”

Michael’s stomach went cold and his fingers started tingling. Mr. Jones. It was a common alias, but it still sparks a memory of this time, of this place. Of his last mission in South Africa. When he first met Thomas.

It was a mission he’d finished.

At least, that was what he thought.

The man’s grin widens. “You told me many things,” he says. “You said you would protect me; you said that you were going to make it better.”

Michael’s heart starts to pound, and he looks at Billy, dangling lifelessly in the man’s iron grip.

“You promised hope,” the man continues. “I stayed in your crappy apartment for days and days while you promised hope.”

Michael’s mind races, trying to piece together the details, to make the connection.

The man pulls Billy tighter, the smile fading to anger now. “I was a child, so I believed you,” he says, gun still steady against the side of Billy’s head. “I stayed in the tiny bedroom and trusted you.”

Michael’s stomach hollows out and he remembers -- the dealer they’d been after was a single father. They’d extracted the boy first, kept him safe through the fire fight before turning him over to the authorities to find a safe long term living arrangement.

“But there was no hope,” the man hisses. “When I got out, there were foster homes and group homes. My uncles -- killed. My father -- publicly humiliated and put in prison. My home, my friends, my life -- all gone.”

Michael had been told the boy had an aunt, but he’d never followed up. He’d never thought to check. He’d made sure the operation was shut down; he’d taken out the bad guys. That’d been his job -- taking care of the kid had just been an act of mercy.

“So I have waited,” the man continues. “I found that street and rented an apartment the floor above it. I have waited for anyone to come back. Imagine my surprise when it was you.”

Michael’s chest hurts now, his throat tight with emotion. Billy is still out of it -- and Michael’s still unarmed.

The man -- Michael can’t even remember his name, but he can see the small, dark eyes looking up at him the day he left -- moves closer to the ledge, pulling Billy along with him. “I have lived a lifetime waiting to finish what you started,” he says, face hardened as he scrapes the muzzle harder against Billy’s head. “But this time, I will write the ending. No more loose ends. No more unfinished business.”

Michael’s breath catches. His eyes glance around the roof, looking for something -- anything--

Unfinished business. Michael can work and try and put forth everything, and it may not be enough. He can’t tie every loose end.

Sometimes, he just has to let go.

He lifts his hands, shrugging helplessly. “I know better than to try to talk you out of it,” he says. “A word of warning, though--”

The man tenses, his face twitching just a little.

Michael makes no effort to move. “--These things rarely go the way you think they will,” he says, because he knows. “Just when you think you have it figured out, something changes that you don’t expect.”

The man’s face contorts now, and he hesitates, holding Billy closer to the ledge before his eyes go dark with rage and he turns the gun at Michael--

Right before he’s hit from behind.

Casey strikes with the utmost efficiency, so it only takes one blow before the man crumples to the ground, gun clattering uselessly away. Michael springs forward, but he’s too far away to catch Billy before he hits the ground too, safely away from the ledge.

“Good timing,” Michael says, glancing toward Casey as the other man disarms the assailant and pulls out a zip tie. “Rick?”

“Security caught the goons before they had a chance to do much,” Casey explains. “It was a risk, but with half the hospital in the kid’s room, I thought you might need some help.”

Michael looks at the man -- and he looks younger now. His vacant features still retain a boyishness that Michael remembers. Michael thinks about a lot of consequences, but this isn’t one he’s considered. He’d been doing the right thing; extracting the boy had been the only option.

He hadn’t known, though.

He’d never predicted.

Standing again, Casey looks at Michael. “Billy?”

Michael turns his gaze downward again, rolling Billy gently onto his back. The livid bruises on his throat are still hard to see, but his pulse is easy to feel and his breath is warm against Michael’s hand.

And for the first time since this mission began, Michael feels the tension unfurl as he breathes out. “Drugged, it looks like,” he says, holding Billy in his lap. “But he’s okay, I think.”

He looks at the man; looks at Casey. He thinks about Rick and holds Billy closer.

“It’s all okay,” he murmurs, hoping that this time it’s actually true.

-o-

Consciousness is a fog, and Billy pulls through it slowly. The murkiness is vast, though, and Billy’s tired -- Billy’s exhausted. Normally he’s all for facing the challenges that come, but this time, he thinks he’d rather just go back to sleep.

Intent on such a venture, he moves to curl over onto his preferred sleeping position on his left but he doesn’t get very far. He moves again, to the right this time, but something is holding him back. He tosses, tugging a little, but nothing works. He’s stuck -- and the sudden realization brings him to full wakefulness with a start.

He gasps, the air passing harshly through his bruised throat. He flails -- or tries to -- but something is holding him -- his wrists and his ankles.

For a moment, Billy panics. He’s a spy, after all. Waking up groggy and restrained is never a good thing. And he’s hurt and he’s confused and there’s danger somehow and Billy’s rather tired of almost dying.

“Hey,” Michael’s voice cuts through the emotions, calm and steady. It’s calming and reassuring, but when Billy’s eyes settle on the other operative, he’s still more than a little confused.

“Wha’ happened?” he asks, wincing at the sound of his own voice, weak and gravelly.

Michael offers him a small smile back. He looks tired, with lines around his eyes and hair not quite tamed. “What do you remember?”

Billy might offer a quip in return, but the truth is, he’s just too tired. He blinks wearily, and even the simple act of thinking seems to be too much. The memories are scattered, and pieces of the mission and the safehouse start to come back. Mostly, though, he just remembers the feeling of waiting, like he’s been dangling on the end of a fraying rope, just waiting for the next moment to pass.

He swallows, his swollen throat reminding him of some of the rest.

“The safehouse was compromised,” he says, eyes on Michael again. “You got me help by putting me on a psych hold.”

Michael’s face is reserved, so Billy knows he’s missing a few pieces. “Anything after that?”

Billy frowns, thinking about his boring hours and the frustrating sessions with the psychiatrist. If Billy had wanted to be a well-adjusted, functioning adult, he would have faced his fears back in the UK. He’s been holding on too long to let go, except--

His eyes widen. “There was a man--”

There’s visible relief in Michael’s face -- and guilt. “Yeah, apparently he drugged you and took you to the roof,” he explains, sounding more than a little apologetic. “He wanted to throw you off the roof.”

Billy’s memory is fuzzy, but for some reason, this makes sense to him. “It was the same man,” he says suddenly, remembering the eyes. “He’d been across the street when the safehouse was stormed.”

Michael nods -- he already knows. “His name is Francis Laconte.”

The name is unfamiliar.

Michael sighs. “He was the son of Gerard Laconte,” he continues. “Someone I busted nearly ten years ago while working a mission here.”

Billy furrows his brow. “Revenge?”

With a rueful smile, Michael ducks his head. “Unfinished business, I guess,” he says. He clears his throat and looks back up, and his expression is stricken. “It’s my fault.”

Billy just chuckles. He’s too tired for guilt. Absolution is for those who want to lead blameless lives. “Spare me your apologies, mate,” he says. “I’m just grateful that I didn’t end up flattened on the ground. I think we can call it even.”

Michael looks hesitant, but he can’t deny it -- at least, he won’t.

Billy’s smile falls, and he looks at Michael earnestly. “Rick?”

“He’s fine,” Michael assures him. “At this rate, he’ll be out of here before you.”

Billy shook his head. “The drugs will wear off...”

“Yeah...about that...”

This mission has been one bad surprise after another, so Billy reckons his immediate trepidation is warranted.

Michael scratches the back of his neck. “By the time we got to you, they’d noticed you were missing,” he explains. “Plus with the amount of drugs in your system...and given we’d found you on the edge of the roof...”

Billy frowns, heart skipping a beat.

“Well they pumped your stomach and put you back up here,” he says. “Only this time, your stay is going to be a bit longer.”

Billy stares, the incredulity hard to articulate. “So that’s why I’m tied down?”

“They think you stole drugs and tried to jump off a building,” Michael replies. “Sort of the definition of a danger to yourself.”

The incredulity gives way to fear -- which immediately gives way to anger. He’s been here too long; he’s talked to the damned shrink too many times. He’s endured sympathy and analysis and boredom. “You let them commit me?”

“I didn’t really have a lot of say in it,” Michael says.

“What am I suppose to do?” Billy asks, moving his arms in vain. “I swear on all that is good and holy, if you tell me to hang in there--

It’s Michael’s turn to chuckle. “Nah,” he says, getting to his feet and reaching down to the restraints at Billy’s wrist. “I’ve had enough hanging around. You ready to get out of here?”

The first restraint comes loose, and Billy feels his panic lessen. He’s held on long enough -- and frankly, he’s not sure he’ll always be able to. But for all the faults of this mission, it has shown him one thing: even if he can’t hang on, even if he does let go, his team will be there to catch him.

The second restraint eases, and the third and the fourth.

His team will catch him every time. That may not make Billy an emotionally healthy individual, but it counts for something.

Grinning, he sits up. The world dims a little, but Michael is there, hand on his shoulder. “You ready?”

It counts for a lot.

Billy nods, taking a shaky breath as he found his leg. He wobbles, but Michael is there. “You better believe it.”

Michael shifts him closer. “I’ve got an exit, but it’s a little tricky,” he says. “You’ll want to hold on tight.”

Billy grunts. “Seems like I’ve got plenty of practice with that one.”

-o-

In the end, Michael finishes the mission -- more or less. Viljoen’s murder had never been part of the equation. It certainly did stymie the operation, and Michael has enough intel to provide hard identification of any remaining members of the organization. He doesn’t doubt they’ll get back in business, but it’ll take a while.

Which means Michael and his team will be back. It’ll be harder next time without Thomas’ perfect set up, but after all this, Michael still doesn’t like to leave loose ends.

Laconte is a bit of a problem, that much is certain. He knows who Michael is; he knows where the safehouse is. He’s ID’d every member of Michael’s team. It takes some work to go through Laconte’s things to destroy any evidence, but Michael thinks he can turn the man over for Thomas’ death without fear of exposing himself. After all, there’s concrete evidence of Laconte’s actions, and a sadistic murderer offering tales of CIA operatives will sound like desperate pleas to get a reduced sentence.

Michael would like to stay to make sure that’s how it goes, but he’s spent enough time here. He’s ready to take his team home.

They’d smuggled Billy out once the drugs had worn off, and Rick had been back at their new motel room a few days later. Now, rested and recovered, they’re ready to go home.

Except one last thing.

Rick sucks in a breath the moment they walk in the door. “Man, and I thought this place was depressing before.”

Michael is in front of him, looking over the barren walls of the safehouse. “Well, take a good look, then,” he advises. “We won’t be coming back.”

There’s a good chance Laconte’s identification of the safehouse will rot in prison with him, but since he’s known about it so long and since it has been compromised by multiple assailants, Michael can’t risk leaving it open. The CIA will officially give up their lease.

Casey fans out. “I assume you’ve already sterilized the place?” he asks.

Michael nods. “Mostly, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to do it again,” he says. “We’ll need to hit the apartment across the hall, too.”

Lingering in the doorway, Billy makes a face. “I volunteer to stand here and do nothing,” he says.

Casey glares at him. “Slacker.”

“I am recovering!” Billy insists. “I never got any discharge orders since I was sneaked out AMA--”

“Would you rather us take you back?” Michael asks.

“Ah,” Billy says, inching inward. “That would be most unfortunate--”

“See, you’re fine,” Casey says back. “Look at Rick -- he had a bullet pass through his body and he’s fine.”

Rick offers a pathetic smile from the table where he looks like he’s about to keel over even as he uses a cloth to wipe the surface.

“I was attacked and hanged in this very room,” Billy protests.

“Partially hanged, actually,” Michael clarifies. “They never got you off the ground.”

Billy’s brow creases in obvious distress. “What a lovely clarification.”

Michael moves along, remembering to look under the couch for the last of the homing devices planted. “I’m just pointing out that they didn’t finish the job,” he says.

“Not for a lack of trying,” Billy says, sulking a bit now as he uses his cloth and idly wipes at the naked light fixture. “Need I remind you of my second encounter.”

Casey snorts. “We had to remind you,” he says. “You were so out of it that you peed yourself.”

Michael tries not to laugh, absently wondering if they should burn the couch cushions out back, just in case.

“Hey, what about this?” Rick’s voice interjects.

Michael looks up, and sees Rick standing at the wall. He’s looking at Billy’s poster, almost eye to eye with the fluffy kitten, the faded font still visible Hang In There.

He moves toward Rick, looking at it with a small chuff. “If I’d known it was going to be so damn ironic, I wouldn’t have let you bring it,” he says, with a glance toward Billy.

Billy has crossed the room to look at it, too. “Trust me, if I’d known what was coming, I might not have tempted fate either,” he says. He pauses, cocking his head. “You have to admit, it was rather fitting, though.”

“You mean because you kept hanging until you almost died?” Casey asks pointedly.

Billy rolls his eyes. “Just that we survived,” he says. “Contrary to all the odds, against all the forces working against us -- we held on to the very bitter end. And we prevailed.”

He’s right. They did prevail. Michael’s not sure how; Michael’s not sure why. But they did. Because that’s what they do -- in life, in the field. On missions; as a team. Sometimes they’re as helpless as kittens, but they still get through together.

They’ll always get through together.

“You know,” Michael says, trying to sound indifferent. “We really can’t leave this here. It’s got Billy’s prints all over it. It’s a huge security risk.”

Billy grins knowingly at him. “Well, we certainly don’t want that.”

Rick turns back to look at them. “You know, since this was a crime scene, this might even be considered evidence,” he tells them. “We may need to keep it in the office, just in case we need to process it.”

Even Casey is next to them now, shaking his head. “Sentimentality is overrated.”

Michael raises his eyebrows. “You don’t think we should take it.”

“Of course we should take it,” Casey snaps. “This mission was a disaster. The only way to preempt the next disaster is to remind ourselves of this one.”

“It’s settled then,” Michael says, nodding toward the poster. “It comes with us.”

“For security,” Rick clarifies.

“For reference,” Casey adds.

“For us,” Billy concludes.

And Michael reaches up to pull out the pushpins, plucking them free and rolling the poster back up, leaving the wall blank and barren, like they’d never been here at all.

Comments

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 8th, 2014 02:04 am (UTC)
billy content

I love how much you love Billy torture, LOL. It makes me happy :)

Thank you!

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