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Chaos fic: Lines in the Sand (1/2)

March 6th, 2014 (05:48 am)
anxious

feeling: anxious

Title: Lines in the Sand

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: Beta by sockie1000. Honestly I wrote this a long time ago, and I can’t remember why. It’s probably because of lena7142.

Summary: Rick knew how it was supposed to go. He joined the CIA to be a hero; he wanted to serve his country, to do the right thing. Serving was a choice, but the mission never was. The right thing wasn’t black and white, and the fact was, there were no heroes in the CIA. There were just people who did what needed to be done.



-o-

Rick knew how this was supposed to go.

They waited until the weekend, when the main staff had gone away, use the security codes Michael had pilfered last week, take out the security cameras as Billy had noted, take out the guards as Casey had indicated, go in, take pictures of the lab’s progress, and leave.

Minimal fuss. No gunplay.

In and out, obtaining the most recent information about potential chemical weapons being produced in Lebanon.

The plan was solid, and actually, relatively easy. There was no reason it shouldn’t work; they’d prepared for the contingencies.

But, Rick reflected later, they hadn’t prepared for this.

-o-

“Are you sure this is the place?” Rick hissed, lifting his flashlight along the rows of work tables, highlighting microscopes and beakers.

Michael and Casey were fanning out, while Billy moved ahead, lifting up papers left on the tables curiously.

“What were you expecting?” Michael asked.

“Signs that say Warning: Top Secret Chemical Weapons Made Here?” Casey asked wryly.

Billy put down the paper, picking up a vial and squinting at it. “They could have at least helped us out by putting a skull and crossbones on the door.”

Rick rolled his eyes. “I just don’t want to go through all this for nothing,” he said as he followed Billy. “It wouldn’t be worth it.”

“Doubt is unbecoming,” Casey said, checking the doors on the side of the lab as they passed.

“Oh, like you’re one to talk,” Rick shot back. He took out his camera, starting to take a few pictures of the labeled equipment.

“I make a point to always do things that are worth it,” Casey said, peering through a darkened window. “Or I just refuse to do it. So asking the question if it’s worth it is completely inane.”

Rick scowled, leafing through a few papers and taking a few shots just to make himself feel productive.

Billy seemed to gaze with interest at a work station. “We do appreciate your due diligence, though,” he noted, looking at Rick earnestly.

“We’d appreciate it more if it actually helped us,” Michael said from the far end. “Now stop wasting your batteries and come here. I found the results room.”

Casey followed suit, and Billy put down a microscope slide hastily. Rick glared after them, taking another picture of the datasheet before making up the distance.

When he got there, Billy had stationed himself in front of the keypad. “And we know the code?”

“56983,” Michael replied as Billy deftly tapped the keys. Then he produced the keycard they’d swiped from the security guard on the way in, waiting anxiously while the machine worked.

Then the light turned green and the door clicked open. “And there we are,” Billy said grandly, turning the handle and pushing his way in.

“Great,” Michael said. “Casey, you keep watch. Rick, bring your camera in and help me on the opposite side.”

“How do we know exactly what we’re looking for though?” Rick pressed as he fumbled forward, groping the wall for a light switch.

“Well,” Billy said from up ahead. “I’m pretty sure such things are about to become crystal clear.”

Rick frowned, almost running into Michael, who glared at him before turning on the light. “And why’s that?” Rick asked.

Or almost asked.

The words died on his lips because standing in front of him was Billy, hands out and head bent back while a stocky man in a white coat wrapped an arm around Billy’s chest, pulling him close enough to lift a syringe poised against the thrumming vein in Billy’s throat.

“Because,” Billy continued, voice hitching a bit. “Whatever in here is apparently a matter of life or death.” He chuckled a little, even if it sounded strained. “Apparently mine.”

-o-

For a moment, none of it made any sense.

They’d planned so carefully. There wasn’t going to be anyone working in the lab -- just security. They’d taken out the guards; they’d disabled the system long enough to get the job done. This was supposed to be easy, in and out.

But there was Billy, a needle against his neck, held tight by a lab technician who looked terrified.

And angry.

Michael held his hands out; Rick didn’t dare move. Casey came in behind them. “Hey, what’s the--”

The lab technician jolted, jerking Billy backward so hard that the Scot nearly tumbled. Rick couldn’t avoid seeing the way the needle jabbed against his flesh.

“Okay, let’s take it easy,” Michael said, patiently, calmly.

Rick tried to listen, but his heart was pounding and his palms were sweating.

“This is just a misunderstanding, okay?” Michael continued, looking at the man, whose head was peeking around Billy’s bent shoulder.

He was probably Michael’s age with graying dark hair and a full beard. He wore glasses, but his eyes were bright and when he spoke, the staccato sound of Arabic took a minute to register in Rick’s ears.

“He’s telling us that this is a violation of national sovereignty,” Rick realized.

“Tell him it’s a mistake,” Michael said, even as Casey hedge closer until he was alongside Michael.

Rick swallowed, stepping forward as disarmingly as possible, the words flowing in careful, meticulous Arabic.

The man shook his head, adjusting his grip so it was tighter against Billy. The Scot inhaled sharply but didn’t move, eyes on the ceiling he was being forced back so far by the man’s lesser height. He spoke again, panic hitching.

“What’s he saying?” Michael demanded.

“Ah,” Rick said, listening as best he could. “He’s telling us to go--”

“Okay, tell him okay,” Michael said.

Rick moved to reply but he man shook his head, speaking so forcefully he was almost spitting. Rick’s heart dropped.

“What?” Michael demanded.

“He says we’re supposed to go without Billy,” he translated, listening as the man ranted on. “Billy’s life will be the cost of our transgression.”

“Tell the idiot that’s not going to happen,” Casey growled, slinking around Michael and tensing, ready to spring.

The man saw it, though, using his hand to reach up and grab Billy by the hair, forcing his legs out from under him until he fell to his knees with a grunt. The man sidled in closer behind, hand tight in Billy’s hair as he re-angled the needle until it was poking prominently into the vulnerable skin of Billy’s throat.

The Scot was breathing raggedly, but kept very still even as he spoke. “I’m not so sure our friend here agrees,” he said, swallowing convulsively.

“Okay,” Michael said again, looking at the man. “Tell him we’ll leave but that we all go together. He can have our equipment--”

The man’s eyes blazed now, and he shook his head furiously, yelling over Michael’s voice.

Casey started moving again, and Rick tried to listen. He caught snatches -- bits of the expected anti-American hate speech, about how they would all suffer for their transgressions, about how Allah was just, that he trusts in God--

“It’s a mistake,” Michael explained.

Rick’s stomach turned. It was the litany of a suicide bomber; the last words of a martyr who had a pretty good idea he was going to die--

Billy squeezed his eyes shut.

--but who didn’t intend to die alone.

Casey lunged.

Rick screamed, “No!”

The man depressed the syringe and it was too late.

-o-

The fight was short. The man was clearly not trained for any kind of combat, and Casey was lethal even against the best opponents. It was a quick flurry, and then the man was on the ground, unconscious and bleeding from the nose, while Casey straddled him.

Rick didn’t even have time to move. Next to him, even Michael seemed frozen.

On the ground, Billy shifted, groaning as he sat up, a hand pressed against his neck.

There was a brief second, a wonderful moment, when Rick dared to hope everything had turned out.

But then Billy moved his hand and the smear of blood was obvious. Looking at his hand, Billy made a face. “I don’t reckon that this was a placebo, eh?”

No one moved; no one dared to speak. Maybe that way, it wouldn’t have happened. It couldn’t have happened--

Then the alarm went off.

-o-

Rick knew how it was supposed to go.

This wasn’t even close.

Michael startled first, moving forward and swiftly taking Billy by the arm, pulling him to his feet. “You okay?” he asked.

Billy nodded, though his pale face gave him away. “If I’m going to die, I’d rather it not be here,” he said.

“It won’t be at all,” Michael promised. He glanced to Casey. “We need you to clear us an exit.”

Casey was already on his feet. “That won’t be a problem.”

Casey took off in front, Michael with his hand still on Billy as they started forward.

“What about the intel?” Rick found himself asking, even as the alarm continued to wail.

Michael glanced at him. “If you want it, stay and get it,” he said, helping Billy forward another few paces to the door. “But I’ve got other priorities right now.”

With that, Casey ducked back out, Michael and Billy not far behind. Rick looked at the room, his camera still in hand. He looked at the lab technician, the syringe still by his lax fingers.

Bending over, Rick picked it up, putting it safely in the middle of his pack, stowing his camera next to it, before following his team.

-o-

They ran.

It didn’t seem particularly noble, but the fact was, the ODS wasn’t about nobility. They were about getting the job done. They were about surviving.

In that, Rick had no qualms with the simple notion of running. Sure, he’d had higher aspirations when joining the CIA; he certainly hadn’t trained so hard with idealistic ideas of valor to turn tail and run when things got rough but sometimes there was no other option.

Okay, a lot of times.

And this time?

Rick wasn’t even sure it was much of an option.

Empty though the facility was, it wasn’t abandoned, and they’d only taken out the security guards at the checkpoint, which left approximately 20 other guards and maintenance staff on duty. Twenty hadn’t seemed so bad during the pre-mission overview.

It seemed a bit more daunting now that they were trying to escape from all 20.

Who all seemed to be trying to kill them.

Casey was good at point. When they’d rounded the corner and hit the first pair of guards, he’d disabled them within seconds, commandeering their weapons and handing one off to Michael before leading with his own. The next pair of guards was down just as fast, and the next didn’t take much longer.

When two came from their flank, Rick nearly took a shot to the back, and he hit the ground hard, seeing stars, before blinking up to see Michael take the shot and look down. Next to him, Billy staggered into view. The Scot was pale, sweating a little as he panted more than he should, but he still grinned. “I thought I was the one playing damsel in distress this mission,” he quipped.

Michael snorted, offering Rick a hand and hoisting him up. “Maybe you two can share it.”

Rick took the hand, climbing to his feet with a small grunt. “Just caught me off guard is all,” he muttered.

Michael handed him a gun. “Can’t have that.”

“Especially since I don’t play well with others,” Billy joked.

Michael nudged Billy, taking him slightly be the wrist. “Let’s go.” He glanced meaningfully back at Rick. “We don’t have much time.”

-o-

There wasn’t much good about the mission at that point, but as Rick ran, pausing intermittently to fire at anyone who might be behind them, he reflected that at least the ever-present threat of almost being killed was motivating. It kept his legs moving; it kept his aim deadly accurate and his trigger finger limber.

Still, by the time they got to the exit where their getaway car was park, Rick was breathing hard and trembling with exertion. He’d lost count of how many guards they’d encountered -- after awhile, it just hadn’t mattered. The only thing that had mattered was getting the hell out.

He didn’t know who opened the door, but he dove for the first one he saw, half tumbling inside while it slammed shut behind him. The engine rumbled and Casey yelled, “Go, go, go!”

The car lurched forward, tires squealing as they peeled away, and Rick grabbed at the seat and held on with all he had.

-o-

Rick wasn’t sure how far they’d gone when his heart finally started to slow down. The adrenaline faded to manageable levels, and he became keenly aware that he was splayed haphazardly against the back seat. Michael was at the wheel, the line of his shoulders rigid with his head turned forward. Casey was riding shotgun -- almost literally. He still balanced a gun on his lap, glancing fretfully behind them.

Which left...Billy.

In the rush, it had been easy to overlook it all, but it was harder now. Because Billy was slumped next to him, his face colorless as he panted. He looked ghastly -- sick and overworked, like he was still about to fall over despite the fact that their frenetic escape was over.

But it wasn’t over. They were out, but Rick had to face the horrifying fact that this wasn’t even close to over. Billy had been injected with something -- what, Rick couldn’t say, but given that they were looking into the facility for its rumored work with chemical weapons...it probably wasn’t good.

Billy could be dying -- and they had no way of knowing the symptoms or the timeframe -- just that it was coming.

Swallowing hard, Billy tried to smile. “It’s not so bad,” he said, voice shaky over the sound of the road. His smile wobbled. “Maybe we’ll be lucky, after all.”

Rick wanted to believed him. In his mind, he could almost make himself believe it. It could have been nothing more than saline or another harmless chemical solvent. Maybe it was a project in the early stages, before potency had been added. Maybe it had all been a big hoax -- the last threat of a desperate and terrified man.

For a moment, Rick dared to hope.

Then up ahead, Casey cursed. “We’ve got a tail.”

So much for hope.

-o-

At this point, Rick had no idea how this was supposed to go. They’d been in some tight spots before, but this was all a bit beyond him. With the unexpected lab technician and the intel they’d left behind, with Billy dosed with an unknown substance and making a hot exit, it had really seemed like more than enough.

But as Michael added more gas to the engine, it seemed things were still going to get worse.

“Can we outrun them?” Michael asked.

Casey made a face. “Unlikely,” he said. “This heap of junk doesn’t have the power.”

“You sure?” Michael asked. “We got a head start.”

Sharp pings reverberated through the air, and Rick flung himself across the seat, taking Billy down with him. The Scot yelped, but didn’t protest. Michael cursed again, trying to keep the wheel steady even as Casey rolled down his window and fired off a few shots.

Pulling back in, Casey huffed. “See.”

“Okay, then,” Michael said. “Looks like we’re going for Plan B, then.”

-o-

Rick wasn’t sure how Plan B was supposed to go, but he was fairly certain he didn’t like it. Because, as far as he could tell, Plan B involved exchanging gunfire at high speeds and seeing who got lucky -- and, in return, unlucky -- first.

Normally, Rick would put money on the ODS, but given the way this mission was going...

The car swerved, the wheel jerking and Rick toppled forward, over Billy and landing on the floor awkwardly.

Casey cursed. “Keep it steady, will you?”

“Finish them off, will you?” Michael returned.

“If you could keep it steady!” Casey yelled.

“I vote for both!” Billy chimed in. Rick glanced up at him: he was looking more ghastly by the minute, though it was hard to tell if that was Michael’s driving, the gunfire coming dangerously close to killing them, or the fact that he’d probably been injected with a toxin that was inevitably killing him.

“I just need one shot...,” Casey said, leaning out the window. He got off a few shots, but another bullet shattered the back window, letting in a rush of air that whistled from the speed.

Rick blinked in horror, seeing the bullet lodged in the back of Michael’s seat, where Rick’s head had been when this car ride started.

More gunfire started and Rick briefly tried to decide if getting shot was worse than dying in a car accident.

Another bullet pffted into the fake leather seats, and Rick figured hoping for neither was still his best bet.

Above him, Billy flinched at the proximity, and Rick remembered that this wasn’t just about him. Michael was driving; Casey was firing; Rick was lying on the ground like an idiot. He couldn’t changed the fact that Billy had been injected, but he could do his best to make sure the Scot wasn’t riddled with bullet holes in the meantime.

Instinctively, Rick grabbed him, flinging him down while he climbed back up to lie on the seat. Billy squawked, but there was no time to argue.

“So do they!” Michael yelled, a hint of panic in his voice now.

“I’m not a bloody invalid!” Billy protested.

“No,” Rick agreed, having to raise his voice of the sound of the road and the noise of the roaring wind. “And I was sort of hoping to leave it that way!”

“It won’t matter if Casey doesn’t get the shot!” Michael yelled.

“None of you are helping,” Casey growled.

Michael veered again as another bullet tore through. Rick was flung against the door, hitting his head hard. On the ground, Billy flailed, limbs tangled from the disorienting chase.

“Take the shot,” Michael said.

“Steady the car,” Casey replied.

“Someone do something!” Rick exclaimed, trying to right himself on the seat.

Michael’s hand steadied; Casey leaned out the window. Billy was stark white on the ground, eyes locked with Rick as he held his breath--

Casey fired.

Air whistled and the engine thrummed.

And then they heard the crash.

-o-

Immature and unprofessional, Rick still whooped. He scrambled up onto the seat, poking his head over the edge to look out the bullet-cracked window. Behind them, the car swerved wildly before hitting the edge of the road and going airborne. It flipped once and rolled, coming to a smoking stop.

Michael didn’t slow down.

Casey pulled himself back in. “There,” he said, glancing sternly at Michael. “I’d appreciate less doubt next time.”

“I’d appreciate better aim,” Michael shot back.

“And I’d appreciate getting out of here,” Rick said, trying to situate himself on the seat before reaching down and helping pull Billy up. The Scot was shaking still, and as Rick positioned him on the seat, he looked downright ill. “What about you, Billy?” Rick prodded for lack of something better to do. “What would you appreciate?”

Billy didn’t look at him, though. He swallowed once -- and then twice before his complexion became almost translucent.

“Everything okay back there?” Michael asked, glancing in the mirror as Casey turned in his seat.

But Billy didn’t reply. Instead, the tremors increased until Billy shuddered violently. He leaned forward, bracing himself on the seat in front of him while he shuddered, this time gagging as he threw up.

Casey made a face, turning away, even as Michael tried to crane his head for a better look. Rick made a small noise, moving his feet to be clear while also leaning over to steady the other man while he retched again.

When it was over, Billy slumped backward, letting Rick guide him to the seat. He went limp against it, eyes closed as he panted through his mouth.

“See, I told you your driving was bad,” Casey quipped.

“And I told you that you needed to shoot faster,” Michael joked back.

But no one was laughing, even as Billy looked up at Rick with wide, knowing eyes.

Rick forced a smile. “It could be nothing,” he said.

There was a hint of fear in Billy’s face -- a lot of resignation. “Or it could be everything,” he said wistfully.

“Hey,” Rick said, squeezing Billy’s shoulder. “We won’t let it come to that, okay?”

He glanced up toward Michael and Casey, who didn’t meet his gaze. His eyes settled on Billy again, his smile almost faltering. “Trust me.”

“Okay,” Billy said with a convulsive nod. “That much I think I can do.”

If it was a lie, then it wasn’t the first.

Also, Rick reflected, looking at his teammates again, it wasn’t even the worst.

-o-

The next few miles passed in silence. Relatively.

The wind still whistled through the holes in the car, and the sound of the road was still a constant roar. Rick’s heart was still pounding, blood rushing in his ears as he kept an eye on Billy, who sat stiffly in the seat, staring straight ahead.

In the front, Casey was still holding the gun, glancing in the mirror. Michael was at the wheel, knuckles white as he kept them straight, steady, and fast.

They were in the clear, it seemed.

Not that they could outrun the thing that really mattered.

It was Michael who broke the silence, glancing in the mirror at Billy. “How are you doing?”

Billy swallowed, forcing a smile even as Rick saw his Adam’s apple bob precariously. “Still a bit green around the gills, as it were,” he said.

Michael looked skeptical. “You think you can make it back to the safe house?”

“Without hurling?” Casey added empathetically.

Billy’s smile wavered but didn’t fade. “I shall do my best--”

But Rick was already shaking his head. “No,” he said flatly, as the realization came to him. “We need to go to the hospital.”

Casey’s eyes darted to Michael, who didn’t flinch behind the wheel. Michael shook his head. “We can’t.”

“We have to,” Rick said, louder now. He looked at Billy, mouth hanging open. None of them had said it. None of them had wanted to say it. But there was no avoiding it. Not anymore. If they wanted to save Billy’s life, they had to admit the truth first. “There’s a good chance he’s been dosed with something lethal. If we don’t go to a hospital...”

“We don’t know what was in the syringe,” Billy said softly.

“He was waving it around like a gun,” Rick shot back. “I think we have a good guess.”

“It could have been a bluff,” Casey said.

“Yeah, or it could have been the truth,” Rick replied. “Which is why we have to go in. We have to know.”

Michael sighed. “It wouldn’t make a difference--”

“It’s a hospital!” Rick said.

“In Lebanon,” Michael shot back. “Hezbollah controls this entire area. Do you really think for a minute that four Westerners walking into a hospital are going to be treated well? Especially considering the fact that our break in back at the lab is going to be all over the local news. We go in there, we’ll never come out.”

Rick stared at Michael. His eyes darted to Casey, who stared back, unflinching. When he looked at Billy, he could see the resignation. “We’re better on our own for this kind of thing, anyway,” the Scot told him quietly. “We’ve risked enough on this mission as it is.”

They’d risked it all -- and lost a fair amount.

But Billy was pale and shaky, he was sweaty and his eyes were rimmed red. They were speeding down the highway, but Rick was starting to wonder if they’d ever be fast enough. If they still had more to lose.

If they still had everything to lose.

He didn’t think he wanted to find out.

-o-

The safehouse wasn’t far, and the rest of the trip was uneventful. There was no sign that they’d been followed, and no indication that their cover had been otherwise compromised. In Lebanon, given what they’d just done, that was actually something of an accomplishment.

But as they helped Billy out in the back alley behind the house, the Scot leaned heavily on Rick for a long moment, his face going ghostly white as he wavered momentarily on his feet. He swallowed heavily, blinking his eyes rapidly before taking a few precarious steps on his own. Rick stayed close, ready to reach out and steady the other man if needed, and he could feel the heat started to burn off Billy’s sweat-slicked skin.

Michael got them inside, and Casey cleared the place while Rick helped Billy to the second-floor flat. It was a small space with nothing more than two rooms. The bed was a cot, shoved into the corner, and getting Billy there was a trial. He staggered the last few steps, almost collapsing onto it, bending over at the waist with a retching sound.

Rick was startled, drawing back unexpectedly, but Michael produced a bowl, putting it in front of Billy and coming alongside him on the cot, an arm around his shoulders while he heaved again.

When it was over, Michael eased Billy back onto the bed as Casey silently threw a blanket out over his trembling frame. Billy’s teeth chattered, wet eyes closing rapidly. “If it’s all the same,” he murmured weakly. “I think I’ll just kip out. Feeling a bit...”

He never finished the sentences, the tremors overtaking him as he slipped into sleep.

Michael sat there for a minute longer, still holding the bowl of vomit as he looked at Billy before turning his eye to Casey and Rick. They all knew what this meant. Whatever it was in the vial -- it was already taking effect. The toxin was fast acting, and had dramatic results. It was probably everything its manufacturers wanted it to be in terms of a weapon.

And everything the ODS had been sent to stop.

It seemed like they’d failed that mission -- in more ways than one.

-o-

No one spoke.

Billy was passed out on the cot, trembling finally easing as sleep took a firmer hold. Casey took up a position by the window, keeping a wary eye on the street while stealing glances at Billy. Rick stood numbly by Billy’s side while Michael got up and went to the sink, rinsing out the bowl methodically.

It was all so mundane; all so calm. Billy was dying, and they weren’t doing anything.

The overwhelming futility was too much. Frantic, Rick unshouldered his pack, unzipping it quickly and starting pulling things out haphazardly.

Casey gave him a withering look. “What are you doing?”

“Something productive,” Rick returned, setting the camera aside and then carefully pulling out the center mass where he’d stowed the syringe.

Michael made his way over. “We didn’t get any intel,” he said.

“No,” Rick agreed, but he nodded toward the camera. “But I took pictures of the current specimens that they still had out. If this guy came in on the weekend, I’m guessing it was on a current trial. He didn’t have a lot of time to prep a weapon, so it’s pretty likely that he used whatever he was already working on when he attacked Billy. We might be able to figure out what they were working on by looking at the pictures.”

Casey sighed. “That still won’t get us the antidote,” he said.

“I hate to say it, but Casey’s right,” Michael said. “Chances are whatever was used on Billy isn’t going to be an easy fix with a little antibiotic and saline. We have to know the exact compound--”

“I know,” Rick said, unwrapping the last bit and finding what he needed. The syringe was still there, partially full, the tip glinting with Billy’s blood. He held it up. “Which is why we have this.”

It was a heady feeling -- knowing that he had a way to fix this -- a way to save Billy. But despite his grin, Michael still looked tense, exchanging a knowing look with Casey.

Rick’s smile fell. “What?” he asked. “This is what we need to identify what toxin was used on Billy. Once we do that, we can find the antidote.”

“One problem, though,” Michael said. “How are we going to find out what it is? We don’t have any equipment.”

“And even if we did,” Casey continued. “There’s no guarantee we can find a place to supply the antidote.”

Rick blinked. “But a hospital--”

“I already told you, we can’t take Billy there,” Michael said.

“No,” Rick agreed. “But one of us could go, use a lab.”

“Then I hope your chemistry is pretty amazing, kid,” Michael said.

“And do you really think that they’re going to have an antidote for this kind of thing at a hospital?” Casey pressed. “This was top secret, high level, experimental stuff. They don’t want a readily available antidote. It sort of defeats the purpose of making a toxin.”

Rick’s mouth opened, but no words came out. They were right, of course. He looked at the syringe. It was Billy’s only hope, except it wasn’t any kind of hope at all. His eyes went to Billy, still asleep and half curled up on the cot. There wasn’t any hope.

“You know there is one solution,” Michael said slowly.

Rick looked up, surprised.

Michael’s face was taut, brow furrowed as he looked at Billy. “It’s not exactly easy.”

“What is it?” Rick asked.

Michael bit his lip, glancing over to Casey. “They wouldn’t keep an antidote at the hospital,” he said. “But they’d probably still keep one at the compound.”

Rick scoffed. “There’s no way we’d get back in there,” he said. “Security will be tripled -- they may even bring in the army, given what they do there.”

“I know,” Michael said, and when he looked at Rick his eyes were stony. “But we’re not going to break back in.”

Rick shook his head. “I don’t understand,” he said. “Billy’s dying--

Michael was on his feet, moving over to his own bag. “And we can stop it,” he countered, opening it up and sifting through the files. He paused, looking at Casey, then at Rick. “It’s a little crazy, though.” He made an apologetic face, shrugging a little. “Even for us.”

-o-

A little crazy was an understatement.

“Let me get this straight,” Rick said when Michael was done. “You want to kidnap one of the doctors from the lab, take him to a secure location, show him the syringe and then make him tell you what it is?”

“More or less,” Michael said. “We’ve got surveillance on all the main staff. We know when they come and go, where they live even. I think this one--” He pointed to the open file. “Will be just what we need. He lives alone; his work is all he has, so we’ve got fewer complications -- if we get him after hours, no one is likely to miss him. And with his clearances, he should be able to tell us how to get the antidote.”

“Essentially we’d kill all our birds with one stone,” Casey said. “We could even get our intel out of this if we play it right.”

“It is pretty efficient,” Michael agreed.

Rick shook his head. “Except that he has no reason to help us,” he said. “Hell, if he finds out that we’re the ones who broke in and that we have an operative in critical condition, he’s probably just as likely not to help us. I mean, what are you going to do, kidnap him and then ask really nicely?”

Michael paused, eyes on Casey.

Casey shrugged coolly. “We can be very persuasive.”

It was a simple statement, said without emotion or flourish. For a moment, Rick stared, eyes going between Michael and Casey as he waited for elaboration. But when no more explanation came, the cold meaning became painfully clear.

They would ask.

Then they would demand.

Then they would do whatever was necessary.

Rick had no delusions about the CIA; he knew that sometimes operatives did things that were morally wrong. He knew that sometimes questionable tactics were used toward just ends. He made no active judgment against the men and women who made those decisions. But he knew for himself -- for his own sense of justice and his own moral code -- there were lines he couldn’t cross. Field work was messy. Being undercover was morally ambiguous.

There were still some things that were sacred. The things that separated them from the bad guys.

Things like this.

Horrified, he shook his head. “We can’t.”

Michael sighed. “We don’t have a lot of choices--”

Rick shook his head again, more indignant now. “We can’t stoop to their level.”

Michael didn’t look surprised. He also didn’t look like he was ready to change his mind. “You’re the one who seems to keep saying it -- Billy’s probably dying,” he said simply. “If we don’t do this, then we’re essentially sitting here and letting it happen.”

It was impossible to think about, but when he looked at Billy, he knew it was true. He knew Billy was running out of time. And they were short on options.

Still, he shook his head. “But if we do this -- if we kidnap -- if we torture -- are we any better than the people who did this to him?”

“Don’t get so caught up on the details, Martinez,” Casey warned. “That’s the quickest way to get yourself killed -- or to get your teammates killed.”

Rick clenched his jaw stubbornly. “It’s still a relevant question?” he asked. “That scientist who did this to Billy -- he thought he was just defending his work. He probably thought he was a patriot.”

“Who is making chemical weapons to use against people who don’t agree with him,” Michael pointed out.

“That’s what I’m saying!” Rick said. “There are still differences! There are still lines we haven’t crossed.”

Casey raised his eyebrows. “I believe you have an overly idealistic idea of what exactly our government is willing to do.”

“But this isn’t our government,” Rick snapped. “This is us, our team.”

“Yeah, us includes Billy,” Michael reminded him. “And I’d prefer to get us all out alive.”

“And what would he say if he knew how you saved him?” Rick asked pointedly.

“Who cares,” Casey said with a scowl. “He’ll be alive to think it -- that’s all that matters to me.”

Rick gaped. He knew Casey was willing to do things...he’d seen Casey do things...but kidnapping a scientist who might not even know the full scope of what he was doing. Employing torture -- against a civilian…

That was different.

That was hard.

“It’s our only chance,” Michael finally added, his voice lower now. There was no anger on his face; just simple resignation. He didn’t want this either. “It’s Billy’s only chance.”

There was the heart of the issue. Rick didn’t want to kidnap; he didn’t want to torture. But he couldn’t sit by and let Billy die.

He looked at the Scot again. His face was lax, cheeks starting to blush with fever. They’d lost so much time already.

They couldn’t afford to lose much more.

Rick’s shoulders sagged as he looked at Michael again. “Just...promise me you won’t do something stupid.”

Michael’s expression tightened, even as he reached across, plucking the syringe from Rick’s unresisting grip. “I promise you we’ll save Billy’s life.”

It wasn’t exactly the promise Rick had wanted, but it was the one he needed.

Casey was already on his feet, helping Michael stow their gear and gather their intel.

“We’ll head out and make contact,” Michael said.

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

“Look over what you can in the pictures, see if you can get any sense of what they gave Billy,” Michael suggested. “Mostly, try to keep Billy comfortable. Keep him breathing until we get back.”

“But don’t contact Langley yet,” Casey warned.

“But they could help--” Rick started.

“They’d shut us down and pull us out so fast it’d make your head spin,” Michael said.

“Well, maybe that would help Billy--”

“They don’t even know what the lab is working on,” Casey reminded him tersely. “Do you really think they’d have a stockpile of drugs that would work?”

“No,” Michael agreed, pulling his pack back over his shoulder. “We’ve got one shot at this -- and we’re taking it.”

Rick found it hard to breath, but he nodded. “You sure about this?”

Michael glanced over at Billy. When he looked back at Rick, there was no hesitation. “I’ve never been more sure.”

-o-

It always went against Rick’s instincts to play backup on a mission. It was hard to grasp the importance of sitting idle, waiting while someone else did the hard work. After all, he’d trained so hard to get to this point that letting someone else do the work simply ran contrary to his nature.

This time, however, was different.

As Rick paced the floor in the small apartment (checking the windows, the doors, picking up the lamps and the furniture, skimming them for bugs just in case), he found himself oddly grateful that it didn’t have to be him out there. Michael hadn’t been explicit, but he thought about what this part of the mission entailed.

Stalking a civilian. Throwing together a kidnapping. Extracting intelligence from an uncooperative and likely hostile asset. The possibility of employing extreme measures.

He knew what the ODS did. He knew what their mission statement was.

We are the nation’s first line of defense.

It was why he’d kidnapped a man out of a public bathroom. It was why he’d compromised an internal investigation and lied to the Director to fly out to Bolivia. It was why he’d done a lot of things, because the ends had justified the means.

Rick paused, glancing over at Billy. The Scot was still sleeping, his breathing starting to get noisy and his sleep was far from peaceful by the looks of it. The fever was picking up if the growing flush in his cheeks were any indication. It had been an hour since they’d arrived, but Billy didn’t seem ready to wake despite his growing tossing and turning on the cot.

The idea of losing a teammate was foreign to him; Rick didn’t even know how to make it parse. It was too abstract; it didn’t actually seem possible. Billy was sick, that much was certain, but the ODS always came through their scrapes.

He’d just never considered the price of that before.

In some ways, he wanted to believe that not going had been a choice, that his strong ideals had kept him from it. But he had to wonder if he was the coward, the one too afraid to do what needed to be done.

The line between the two was so fine, it made Rick’s head hurt. To think what Michael and Casey were feeling. They were older; they were more experienced; they were colder, for sure. They were even paranoid bastards, but they weren’t heartless. They protected the innocents; they fought the good fight. Rick had no doubt of that.

This was a mission they were still willing to tackle. He wondered if they had doubts or hesitation. He wondered what Billy would say.

Guiltily, he glanced away and started his trek around the apartment again. Checking the window; checking the door. Opening the fridge and shuffling through the cabinets. This would be over soon enough; Rick would stay here and do nothing, and it would be over soon. Michael and Casey would get the antidote; Billy would get better; they’d go home.

It had to be okay.

After all, Rick had the easy job this time around. He just had to believe.

-o-

Another twenty minutes had passed when Billy sat up on the bed. For a moment, Rick was relieved, smiling as he crossed the room. “About time you woke up,” he began. “I was starting to get worried--”

But before he got there, Billy shuddered violently, flinging off the blanket. “I can’t be here,” he said, the words rushed and muttered. He swung his legs over the side of the bed. “We have to warn them--”

Surprised, Rick almost stumbled. “Whoa, hey, warn who?” he asked.

Billy didn’t seem to hear him. Instead, he got to his feet. “Michael and Casey,” he said.

Rick’s stomach twisted. Maybe Billy knew something he didn’t; maybe the tech had told him something--

“Carson’s walking straight into a bloody trap and if we don’t hurry, it’ll be too late,” he said, patting himself down as if looking for a weapon. “Where the hell is my gun?”

Rick’s throat tightened, his heart almost stilling in his chest. Billy was hallucinating. Pretty vividly, too, by the looks of it. It was hard to say if this was a side-effect of the compound or a reaction to a high fever -- at this point, either seemed probable. Likely, even. It was a serious turn, though. Suddenly Billy’s infection was a lot more pressing.

Swallowing, Rick reached out to still the other man.

At the touch, however, Billy recoiled, eyes turning on Rick with blazing anger. His expression was wild and desperate, but the fever burning in his eyes told Rick what he already suspected -- that Billy was far from coherent. “I don’t know who you are, but I won’t let you stop me,” he said defiantly now. “They’re my mates -- and no mission is worth that--”

“I know,” Rick said, mind working as he tried to think of how to best placate Billy. The Scotsman was sick -- really sick -- and Rick wasn’t exactly interested in picking a fight. He just wanted to get the other man back into bed. “I’m actually working with them myself.”

Billy’s eyes narrowed and his shoulders stiffened. “I don’t remember you...”

“I’m one of Michael’s new assets,” Rick said. Billy didn’t object, but he also didn’t move. “And they told me they have it under control. They just want you to rest.” He reached out again--

And this time Billy flailed. He flung his arms and pushed back so hard that Rick stumbled, catching himself on the wall. Billy made to bolt and he probably would have made it if his legs hadn’t given out.

But as it was, he only made it one step before his knees buckled, collapsing under his weight, and he fell hard and fast to the floor.

Scrambling, Rick reached out, just barely catching the other man before he hit. In his arms, Billy’s body was hot, sweat coating his arms, glistening on his face. He struggled just a bit before blinking wide, fever-blown eyes up at Rick. “They’re my mates,” he said again, his voice small now. “They’re all I have. Please--”

It was a shocking thing to see, really. Billy, who strutted and joked and postured, curled up on the floor, begging. He was so open, so vulnerable; Rick had never known just how much the Scotsman hid until he saw the man fully exposed as he was now.

Billy’s eyes started to roam, flitting wildly across the ceiling. “Please,” he begged again, body bucking weakly as tears started to well. “I’ll do anything...”

Rick had known the importance of teamwork early on, and he’d never doubted the ODS’ commitment to one another. They’d proved it more than once, even for him.

But he wasn’t sure he’d ever grasped the depth of it. How these three men had been bound together, almost to the exclusion of others. They didn’t play well with others because people on the outside couldn’t understand what it meant to work with someone whose life you valued above your own. Heck, Rick had been with the ODS for a while now, and he hadn’t gotten it.

Until now.

I promise you we’ll save Billy’s life.

While Rick sat here and watched it fade.

Suddenly, his job didn’t seem so easy anymore.

-o-

It was difficult getting Billy back on the bed. The adrenaline that had taken the Scot to his feet was gone now, but he was still combative and he resisted as Rick tried to hoist him back up and maneuver him onto the cot. As it was, he nearly dropped the taller operative a few times, catching a not-so-glancing blow across the cheek as Billy continued to fight him.

When he did manage to get Billy up, however, he seemed to melt into the cot, the fight draining from his body even as he searched frantically for something.

“Hey,” Rick said, reaching out and snagging one of Billy’s hands. He squeezed it. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re okay.”

Billy shook his head, arching just slightly off the bed as tears slipped out of his eyes. “I need to -- to help them,” he said, the words pitching thinly as he gasped for air.

“I know,” Rick said, and this time he used his free hand and placed it on Billy’s burning forehead. The heat almost startled him, but he forced himself to smile. “And you have, okay? So don’t worry.”

Billy’s brow furrowed beneath his touch, glassy eyes pained and needy. “Please,” he said, eyes locking with Rick’s with an unsettling intensity. “I’d do anything for them.”

The statement leaves Rick dumbfound, and he can only gape as Billy’s eyes roll back and his body stiffens and eases as he drifts back into a fretful sleep.

Anything, Rick thought, the word turning in his mind again and again. He hadn’t thought about what that might mean before, but he was starting to wonder now.

Under his touch, Billy whimpered, trying to turn his head away.

“Anything,” Rick murmured, drawing his hand away. He just hoped it was enough.

-o-

Billy’s sleep was fitful, and he tossed and turned, nearly tumbling off the cot on several occasions. He trembled and moaned, teeth chattering while his fingers gripped listlessly at the sheet. From time to time, Billy called out and cried, breaking off in occasional sobs before Rick had the chance to adjust the washcloth and soothe him back to sleep.

It didn’t stop Rick from trying, though. He kept a full supply of washcloths, trading them out when they started to warm or dry. He poked around the medicine cabinet in the bathroom for the first aid kit, but it had been stripped bare. Even if not, without knowing what was in Billy’s system, he had no way of knowing if Tylenol was even appropriate.

He had no way of knowing anything at all. He knew nothing. He couldn’t do anything. He changed the washcloth, murmured words of comfort, and found himself completely useless. Sure, he checked the windows; he checked the door. But the routine was weary, and it didn’t actually address the real problem.

Rick didn’t even know what the problem actually was. Michael and Casey had taken the concoction in order to get it identified, which would hopefully save Billy in the end, but in the meantime, watching Billy suffer was hell.

Desperate, he started up their Agency laptop, downloading the photos and going through them. The images were dark -- he had to use Photoshop to brighten them to read the labels on the tubes -- and it was nothing but a makeshift puzzle where none of the pieces fit together.

Even so, none of it looked good. Rick’s chemistry wasn’t his strength, and the names of the compounds were foreign. He managed to get an Internet connection, and when he looked up a few of the names, his heart started to sink.

The lab had been heavily invested into chemical weapons, it seemed. The substances each separately were potent enough to kill. If mixed together, there was no telling what they could do.

Rick looked over at Billy, his stomach churning.

He had a bad feeling that he might find out.

NEXT

Comments

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: March 10th, 2014 10:27 pm (UTC)
This must be getting monotonous for you -- my love for Billy h/c

Okay, there is just something undeniable about how I never, ever tire of seeing another Billy h/c story posted from you, that I hope that the alerts I get are about those stories. Not that that I don't like the others, you know I love those too, especially the Primeval ones (I wonder why that is), but there is nothing like the anticipation I get when I see another story alert on Thursday and learn it's another Chaos story and hope that it's another Billy h/c story. Promise me that you will never, ever run out of material for those! Because I'm telling you right now, you will always, and I mean ALWAYS have a ready reader in me.


I've said it over and over again, but I just enjoy that out of everyone else, Billy always manages to catch the bad luck and whatever poisonous solution ready for injection. It just never gets old and I especially love it when you give Rick all of the angst and morality like you've done here. It's too cute for words!




Fave Parts:

“Yeah, us includes Billy,” Michael reminded him. “And I’d prefer to get us all out alive.”

“And what would he say if he knew how you saved him?” Rick asked pointedly.

“Who cares,” Casey said with a scowl. “He’ll be alive to think it -- that’s all that matters to me.”

Rick gaped. He knew Casey was willing to do things...he’d seen Casey do things...but kidnapping a scientist who might not even know the full scope of what he was doing. Employing torture -- against a civilian…

That was different.

That was hard.

“It’s our only chance,” Michael finally added, his voice lower now. There was no anger on his face; just simple resignation. He didn’t want this either. “It’s Billy’s only chance.”

There was the heart of the issue. Rick didn’t want to kidnap; he didn’t want to torture. But he couldn’t sit by and let Billy die.


--I love this crisis of conscience you have here for Rick. It makes perfect sense that he would be having this crisis, his moral values pulled in opposing directions, trying to find a way to justify torture to save Billy's life.


“Hey,” Rick said, reaching out and snagging one of Billy’s hands. He squeezed it. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re okay.”

Billy shook his head, arching just slightly off the bed as tears slipped out of his eyes. “I need to -- to help them,” he said, the words pitching thinly as he gasped for air.

“I know,” Rick said, and this time he used his free hand and placed it on Billy’s burning forehead. The heat almost startled him, but he forced himself to smile. “And you have, okay? So don’t worry.”

Billy’s brow furrowed beneath his touch, glassy eyes pained and needy. “Please,” he said, eyes locking with Rick’s with an unsettling intensity. “I’d do anything for them.”

The statement leaves Rick dumbfound, and he can only gape as Billy’s eyes roll back and his body stiffens and eases as he drifts back into a fretful sleep.

Anything, Rick thought, the word turning in his mind again and again. He hadn’t thought about what that might mean before, but he was starting to wonder now.

Under his touch, Billy whimpered, trying to turn his head away.

“Anything,” Rick murmured, drawing his hand away. He just hoped it was enough.

--And then there's this! Sigh!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 7th, 2014 02:50 am (UTC)
Re: This must be getting monotonous for you -- my love for Billy h/c
billy earnest

Now I feel guilty for not posting as much Chaos. I'll have to pick up some more Billy ideas here soon. I have some in backlog to post, but I just need some fresh prompts to get some new ones going!

Thanks!

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