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A/N: A bit less action here as the guys try to regroup.

Previous parts in the MASTER POST



PART EIGHT

-o-

First priority: Billy.

This was not the first priority in terms of objective importance – at least, not solely – but it was the necessary next step in a proper evaluation of their situation.

Casey was good to his word; they found their makeshift home base quickly and efficiently. When they got there, Casey slammed it into park and Michael was already opening the back door.

Getting Billy out was a somewhat awkward proposition. During the car ride over, Billy had not roused but he had started to moan, twitching slightly as if pained even in unconsciousness. His fever was raging – by palpitation, Michael would guess it was over 103 by now – and it showed now signs of slowing.

Carefully, Michael tugged at Billy, lacing his arms under the Scot’s armpits and hauling him back. Billy’s head rolled limply against his shoulder, his arms flopping lifelessly as Michael eased them both back.

As Billy’s legs fell clear of the seat, Casey was there, scooping them up. Together, the two of them carried Billy’s prone form back inside, behind the line of scrabbled together defenses they’d erected during their last visit.

The floor was hard but there was nothing to be done for it. Gently, Michael guided Billy down, arranging him carefully before lowering his head to the ground. Casey was already double backing to the truck, presumably to see what their stolen vehicle afforded them beyond a last minute means of transportation.

This was acceptable to Michael; at the very least, it was efficient. Whatever extra ammunition they’d taken with them was gone now, no doubt partially responsible for the spectacular fireball that had saved them all from certain peril.

That didn’t make their new status any less precarious, and really, Michael was grateful for Casey’s implicit focus. Because that meant Michael could focus on his first priority.

Billy.

In the dingy warehouse, Billy didn’t look particularly better. However, away from the impending sense of doom, it was easier to get a strong sense of the man’s condition.

Not that said condition was particularly encouraging.

Michael started by pressing a hand to Billy forehead again, forcing himself to calm as he felt the heat. It was no hotter than before and maybe cooler away from the throes of the action. Still probably hovering around 103, Michael had to guess, but hopefully stabilizing.

Next, Michael pressed his fingers to the pulse point on Billy’s neck. The heartbeat there was easy to find, thrumming far too quickly. This was clearly indicative of the fever and the overall strain on his system.

With that, Michael moved to the Scot’s chest, undoing the top few buttons of his shirt and leaning down close. The grating of his lungs was easy to hear, the gurgles suggestive of fluid starting to build in the lungs. This was a stark contrast to the dry cough from before, and it wasn’t exactly a good development.

After that, he gave the Scot a quick once over. There were no obvious signs of other serious injury – a few scrapes and bruises along his arms and a small cut on his forehead. His pants were ripped and stained, but there seemed to be nothing lurking underneath. Pressing along Billy’s torso, he could feel the slight indication of inflammation. Critically, Michael lifted Billy’s arm, noting the string of inevitable bug bites.

Jaw set, Michael put Billy’s arm back down. There had been no repeat episodes of nausea and vomiting, but with Billy unconscious, that wasn’t a surprise. All things considered, the flu was possible but certainly not their luck. The evolution of the illness had to be considered as well, and since they’d been here just over a week, that meant Billy could have easily been infected and the incubating illness was just starting to manifest in earnest.

The severity of the symptoms was perhaps surprising. Billy had only been showing symptoms for a day or two, although Michael knew that the Scot could have been feeling worse before that and simply not have acknowledged it. Left untreated, malaria was serious even in its lesser strains, but Billy’s collapse likely indicated one of the more dangerous variations.

Which was just their luck. Billy managed to get bit by an infected insect, managed to get sick despite his vaccination records, and managed to get a serious case while they were miles from help and hours from being able to arrange support. It would seem impossible except that this was the ODS. Impossible things were their specialty. Usually Michael boasted about that, but sometimes it really did not work in their favor.

“I take it I missed all the fun,” Billy said, his voice startling Michael out of his analysis.

Michael didn’t let his surprise show. Instead, he smiled. “Doing things the easy way would be too boring for you,” he quipped in reply.

Billy’s smile was weak. He swallowed with difficulty, and Michael could see that he was hiding his pain. “I’m afraid I have horrible timing sometimes,” he said, clearly apologetic. “I tried very hard to fight the encroaching darkness, but I found myself overwhelmed.”

“With reason,” Michael told him. “You’ve got a pretty bad fever.”

Billy’s teeth clenched as he nodded. His body started to tremble, eyes blinking rapidly. “I can’t say that it feels that way,” he said, teeth starting to chatter.

Michael swiped a hand across Billy’s forehead, wiping away the sweat. “Chills?”

Billy nodded convulsively. “I never thought a little cold air would feel so disconcerting in such arid heat,” he said with obvious effort.

Michael tried to smile for Billy’s sake. “Are you going to confess to the muscle pain and headache?”

Billy had the decency to look sheepish. Sick as he was, it was almost pathetic. “All symptoms of the common flu.”

“And malaria,” Michael reminded him.

Billy tsked, still trembling, almost violently now. “I received my vaccinations, same as you,” he said. “And our friendly doctor assured me I was completely up to date and protected.”

“You’re telling me you passed out during a firefight from the flu?” Michael asked, couching the question in cynicism.

Billy tried to shrug but convulsed a little instead. “I do enjoy my dramatics.”

Michael smirked. “Me carrying you ass forward was pretty dramatic,” he said. “You’re lucky we didn’t get shot.”

“Why do you think we’re still alive?” Billy joked back, voice wavering as his body shook. “Even armed militants know not to mar one of God’s perfect creations.”

At that, Michael allowed himself to laugh. Casey came up behind them, laying down an armful of supplies. Shaking his head, he stood over Casey’s shoulder. “And I was hoping the high fever would mean you might finally be quiet,” he said.

Billy’s grin was tremulous but unmistakable. “And leave you gents to all the fun?” he said. “I think not.” There was a pause, and Billy’s eyes flickered from Michael to Casey and back again. His brow creased. “Where’s Rick?”

Michael’s forced levity faltered. Even Casey had to look away, turning back to the supplies and busying himself.

Billy’s face fell, eyes going wide. “He’s not—“ he tried to say, pushing himself up feebly on his elbows. “I made sure to aim the Jeep away—“

Gently, Michael pushed Billy back down, keeping a firm hand on Billy’s shoulder to hold him in place. “He’s alive,” Michael said, remembering his own last fleeting look at their rookie.

Billy’s eyes were unnaturally bright. “But?”

Collecting a breath, Michael refused to let his trepidation show. “He was captured,” he said. “Jenkins had him and took him back before we had a chance to follow.”

That was what happened, even if there was more to it than that. Normally Michael didn’t lie to his men. In their line of work, lies were too easy to come by; they relied on the truth between them to solidify themselves. But Billy didn’t need to know the details. He didn’t need to know about Michael’s choice, to save Billy and leave Rick. Even if Michael’s logic was sound, he knew the Scot would never take it well.

Unfortunately, even addled by fever, Billy was smart enough to figure it out. “It’s my fault,” he breathed, shivering with more vigor now. His body was going stiff, his face creased with pain. “You left him behind when I passed out. It’s my fault.”

The words were choked, strained, and Billy’s body was almost ramrod straight. His breathing was becoming shallow, his eyes wild.

Michael squeezed his shoulder and willed the man to believe him. “It’s not,” he said. “We needed to regroup. Jenkins has already topped us twice; unless we think ahead, he’ll do it again and we can’t take that risk with Rick’s life on the line.”

The assurances were the best Michael had to offer, but Billy was beyond them. His eyes clouded, body slowly going lax as his gaze grew unfocused. The chills abated, replaced by a frightening languidness as the heat took hold again.

Behind him, Casey’s stance was rigid. “Chills and hot flashes,” he said. “Classic presentation.”

“He’s been like this for, what, an hour?” Michael asked.

“Which means he’s got another three to five hours left,” Casey returned. “Unless this strain has a more persistent fever.”

Michael’s eyes settled grimly on Billy, whose awareness was gone again. “Which means this could get worse,” he said.

Casey snerked. “As if it’s been going so well so far.”

To that, Michael had no reply. He had nothing. Just a foiled mission, a captured teammate, and a possibly dying friend.

-o-

Second priority: assess the situation.

Michael sometimes hated clinical practicality in times like this, but it was simply the way it had to be. With Billy lost in the clutches of the fever, Michael pursed his lips and stood, straightening as he looked steadily at Casey. “What do we have?”

Casey’s movements were stiff, jerky. He nodded toward the pile he amassed. “An impressive take, actually,” he said. “Not quite as much variety in the weapons but a fairly deep supply of ammo. Jenkins keeps his men well stocked.”

Michael nodded back, taking it in. “It’s enough to last us for one more fast break,” he said.

“But not enough for a full frontal assault,” Casey said, voice heavy with the warning. “We can’t stage another operation like the one we just got back from. We don’t have the fire power.”

It was a sobering assessment, though not unexpected. Michael couldn’t think that a repeat performance would be his best bet anyway. Jenkins had already proven his prowess in the field, and Michael’s team of four was depleted to two now. If the last attempt had been risky, something similar now would only be suicidal.

With a breath, Michael kept his focus. “What else do we have in our favor?” he asked, skirting the issue entirely.

Casey shrugged slightly, shifting his focus from the weaponry. “Minimal other supplies,” he reported. “For all the money spent on ammo, they didn’t spend much on first aid or survival. I found a few packs, but they were mostly depleted. A few canteens – enough to last us a day, maybe two – and a few snacks.” He held up a Snickers bar. “At least Jenkins understands the value of quality American food.”

Michael smirked grimly, swiping the bar and putting it in his pocket. “If we’re here more than a day, then Billy and Rick are as good as dead,” he said.

Casey didn’t argue that point with him.

Michael eyed the remainder of the equipment. “Anything else that might help us?”

Casey gestured, a small, futile movement. “Some maps and protocol packets,” he said. “They might help us in terms of long term intelligence but they’re not going to do us much good in getting Rick out.”

Michael nodded. “Any forms of communication?”

“A radio with encrypted channels,” he said. “If we had enough time, I might be able to rewire it, but…”

But that would take time. Time they didn’t have. Time where Rick was in the enemy’s hand and Billy was unconscious with a mounting case of malaria.

“No phone?” Michael asked instead.

“Nothing from them,” Casey reported. “I have my cell still, but this far out, it’s useless.”

“And our SAT phone was in the Jeep, wasn’t it?” Michael concluded with a small grimace, remembering the impressive fireball from before.

Casey smiled tersely. “Well, I’m sure it could be worse,” he offered blandly.

Michael lifted his eyebrows. “How do you figure?”

Brows knitted, Casey made a face of displeasure. “I was hoping you knew,” he said. “That’s much more Billy’s area than mine.”

It was a joke, but instead of lightening the mood it added a somber touch as Michael’s eyes drifted inevitably to Billy. He was quieter now but still sleeping fitfully, small tremors shaking him from time to time from his position on the floor.

Looking back up, Michael forced himself to smile. Because Casey wouldn’t admit it, but he needed that. He complained about Billy’s attitude and railed against the Scot’s sometimes impertinent affability, but Michael knew better. Casey relied on Billy, just like he relied on Michael and Rick. With Billy and Rick in peril, Casey was on edge.

Michael had two agents compromised; he couldn’t risk a third.

He nodded as resolutely as he could. “Well, I’m sure he’ll regale us with the worst case scenarios next time he wakes up,” Michael offered. It was meager, but it was something. It was all he had, really, and he hoped it was enough.

Casey’s mouth twitched, somewhere between a smile and a grimace. “We’ll make Rick listen when he gets back,” he added, the hopeful note not lost on Michael.

“Definitely,” Michael agreed. He bucked himself up, willing Casey to do the same even as Billy’s breaths came hard and heavy from the ground.

“That’s the endgame, then,” Casey said. “What’s the plan?”

-o-

Third priority: get Rick.

This was the nagging element of the mission that Michael had forced himself to put off ever since he made the choice to leave Rick back on Jenkins’ compound in the first place. Because in Michael’s mind, he wasn’t leaving Rick behind. Not really. It was just a temporary setback because he was going to go back and get Rick out.

He just wasn’t entirely sure how.

Which was not acceptable. It was Michael’s job to know. It was his job to plan. When he was scared, when he was tired, when he had made mistakes: it was his job to get his team out alive.

If he was uncertain about the execution of this third priority, he was steadfast in his commitment to it nonetheless. He stood, still hovering over Billy’s prone body but fully facing Casey as he let himself think through the next step.

“So if a full frontal assault is out of the question, we’ll have to try something less obvious,” Michael began, his brain working.

Casey nodded along. “Jenkins clearly has his men trained for that type of affront,” he agreed, as if their near annihilation hadn’t made that abundantly clear.

This was part of the problem in multiple ways. First, it meant that their opponent was skilled, armed, and resourceful. Second, it meant that Jenkins was just as good at his job as Michael was at his.

But not better. Michael couldn’t let him be better. If he couldn’t outgun Jenkins, he would have to out plan him instead. “So we launch a covert operation,” he said.

Casey tweaked his head to the side. “Such irony,” he said. “A covert operation in a covert operation. It seems like the world should start imploding.”

The humor wasn’t lost on Michael, but he had no time to indulge it. When his mind was working he had to go with it, and he had to stay with it or he’d lose his train of thought. That was something he couldn’t afford, not now. Not ever.

“We have to find where Rick is being kept and find the best way in with the least resistance possible,” Michael continued. “The minute the alarm goes out, all our exits will be blocked.”

Casey considered this option. “If we’re careful we should have enough ammunition to make ourselves a hole, but we’ll have to be fast about it.”

“We’ve spent more time on that compound than I’d like already,” Michael confessed. “Still, we need to balance our time accordingly. If we put in the time before raising the alarm, then we won’t need as much time to get out.”

“That’s a nice plan,” Casey concurred, “but we don’t even know where they’re holding him or what kind of guard he’s under. We’ll essentially be flying blind.”

This was a problem, and one that Michael was already considering. The answer was actually quite obvious, even if counterintuitive. They were spies; they needed to act like it.

“We’ll have to scout it out,” Michael said, decisive and sure.

Casey’s reaction was one of uncertainty. “You are aware of our time constraints,” he said, not pointed but careful.

Michael still bristled. Because he could still remember Rick being forced away. He could still see Billy, sick on the floor. These were real issues, pressing issues. Billy needed medical attention; Rick potentially had mere hours before he was moved and/or killed. Time was of the essence.

But giving into the demand of time would mean a sacrifice in focus. Michael had made that mistake already during this mission. To rectify it, he had to employ the counter response. He had to make the time in order to execute the plan better.

Without flinching, he held Casey’s gaze and nodded. “It means we’ll only have one shot,” he said. “So this time, I want to do it right.”

Casey didn’t argue. “What do you want to know?” he asked instead.

It was moments like these that Michael loved his team. They understood him; they understood the parameters and the goals. They understood what worked and why the hardest things were the most necessary things. They made his job easier, and on missions like this Michael needed his job to be easier.

“I want to know where he’s being held and how many guards he has,” Michael said. “I want to know the state of the camp – calm, confusion, packing, already leaving – and I want to know Jenkins’ proximity to Rick. We need to know how many guards we can take out prior to raising the alarm. Exits shouldn’t be a problem – the closest car will solve that, but we’ll need a weak spot in the perimeter to infiltrate unseen.”

“Their security monitoring equipment was damaged in the last two escapes,” Casey confirmed.

“Which means we should be able to find a lapse in the guard rotation that we can utilize,” Michael agreed. “I need to know that precisely.”

Casey drew his lips together, sighing a little. His eyes went to Billy and lingered. “It could work,” he relented, although the hints of doubt were present in his voice.

Michael followed his gaze, saw the prone Scotsman on the floor. “I know,” he said. “More than that, it has to.” He paused, looking critically at Casey again. “You think you can find that information?”

Casey lifted his gaze, a flare of indignant determination in his eyes. “I’m insulted,” he said. “And I don’t intend to humor that with a response.”

-o-

No matter how much he tried not to show it, sending Casey made Michael nervous. Not because he didn’t trust Casey – because Casey was skilled, capable and more – but because Michael had already risked his men too many times on this mission. Casey was the only one not in jeopardy, so ordering him back into the proverbial lion’s den gave Michael pause.

However, Michael was not given to emotional reasoning. Fay had always gotten angry that he reverted to logical conclusions during their arguments, but Michael honestly couldn’t help it. Missions, like life, had to fit into structured parameters in order to optimize success. Sometimes, the things Michael wanted most were the things he had to forfeit most readily in order to achieve his end goal.

This was no exception. While there was a case to be made for doing his own scouting in order to ensure that he fielded all necessary questions he may have, he knew that the more eyes he had on the problem enabled him to better ensure the best solution. Casey’s perspective was a prime complement to his own, thereby increasing the effectiveness in the planning process.

Besides, if something went totally wrong and Michael didn’t make it out, Casey needed to have a solid understanding of the compound and its weaknesses to make a full report back to Higgins and/or the local military outposts.

More than that, Casey needed to feel engaged. Michael was already aware that there would be words when Casey was told in no uncertain terms that this was a solo mission and that Casey would be staying behind. The more Casey had to do before that point, the easier it would be to talk him down. No one in the ODS was particularly good at following orders, and Michael was careful to leverage his power as leader with as much nuance as he could.

There was also the issue of Billy, which Michael was treating as a secondary reason, but he knew that was entirely true. Going after Rick would mean leaving Billy behind, and while Michael understood that to be an appropriate risk, he did not relish the thought of relinquishing the care of one of his men. It wasn’t a lack of trust in Casey; it was just his responsibility, something that Michael took very, very seriously.

He had to admit, however, that being here with Billy now wasn’t doing much to assuage his guilt. If anything, it was making it worse.

Billy had not yet regained consciousness. The fever alternated with the cold, in harsh, violent turns that left Billy sweating and shivering in sudden shifts. Michael had used the blankets to create a makeshift bed, gently lifting the Scot onto one and using another as a pillow. He didn’t bothering covering the taller man; with his fever as high as it seemed to be, Michael knew the extra heat wouldn’t be something his overtaxed body would be well equipped to handle.

They had limited water, but Michael allowed himself to use some to make a lukewarm compress for Billy, mopping up the sweat off his brow and folding it over to the cooler side intermittently. It probably didn’t help much, but at this point, Michael would take whatever he could muster.

Besides, it kept him busy. Michael understood that sometimes inaction was the best solution, but he never liked it. He hated being passive, especially when the mission – and, more importantly, the lives of his mind – hung precariously in the balance.

That was what this was, and Michael would be foolish not to acknowledge it. Rick was taken by their mark, who by all accounts was a maniacal traitor capable and willing to exact his own form of justice. Michael’s instincts said Martinez had to be alive, but the nagging doubt of just what Jenkins was able to do was more than a little numbing.

And he’d just sent Casey in, alone and without backup. Granted, he’d ordered the older operative to a strictly observational role, but Casey had never exactly been great at following orders. If the need presented itself or the right opening appeared, Casey would take it without apology or regret. If anyone could do it, it would be Casey without a doubt. But Jenkins had an army and all other advantages. He could lose Casey as readily as he could lose Rick – and never even know it.

Which just left Billy. Michael tried not to consider the odds too much. After all, the odds should have been that Billy would be just fine. That was what vaccinations were for, to prevent preventable illness from hindering the mission. Maybe Billy had just gotten too close to his expiration date on this one; maybe it was just a different strain. Maybe it was just the worst damn luck in the world.

Mostly, it didn’t matter. Because Billy was sick, and the statistics regarding untreated, severe malaria were pressing. Malaria was often treatable, but if left unchecked, it could kill. Painfully and irrevocably. It was one of the biggest killers in Africa, and Michael had never appreciated the tragedy of people succumbing to a disease that was so easy to combat until he was sitting next to Billy with nothing but a compress.

Of course, this was more than a regular strain. Michael knew that because Billy had gone down too quickly. Certainly, he’d been downplaying the symptoms for a while, but for it to get this serious, Billy had the worst case scenario.

This wasn’t Michael’s fault. This was less his fault than Rick and Casey, but sitting there, the guilt was still hard to deal with. Casey might say grief was an exhausting emotion. He was right, of course, but that didn’t mean that any of them knew how to deal with it.

Still, sitting there, Michael felt more than exhausted. He felt tense and tired all at once. The adrenaline conflicted with the pervasive weariness. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to sleep or rage.

Instead, he bent over, picking up the compress and folding it along the crease. Carefully, he turned it so the side less flush with fever was down. Then he replaced it gently on Billy’s head, placing it right above his thick brows, letting the sweat from the fever soak into it with fresh fervor.

At this Billy stirred, shifting on his makeshift bed, eyes twitching beneath his lids. His body seemed to shudder, his mouth moving wordlessly.

“Easy,” Michael soothed, voice low and steady. “Just take it easy.”

Before, Billy had followed such actions by drifting back into sleep. This time, however, a fresh tremor shook his body and his eyes shot open, wide and desperate.

Chills, Michael realized. They were entering another phase of chills while the fever fought for control over Billy’s battered system.

The rational analysis was second nature to him. A habit, borne over years of plotting and planning. Fay had told him he was borderline obsessive compulsive about things like that, at the beginning with affection. Later, in frustration.

Michael didn’t doubt the connection, and he long labored under the belief that the best spies were all a little off in the real world. Less an occupational hazard as survival of the fittest.

Even so, Michael knew Fay’s diagnosis was only partially true. Because Michael had inclinations but he didn’t have to follow them. He knew how to turn them off. He understood that there was a time for analysis, a time for reason.

And then there was a time for compassion. For support. For just being there for someone else.

That time was now.

Sitting low, Michael maneuvered himself into Billy’s line of vision. For a moment, the Scot’s eyes roamed, pupils blown with the grip of the illness. Then, Billy’s gaze met Michael’s and held. It took a long moment before recognition dawned, and Michael smiled in response.

It took another moment, but Billy’s lips twitched in the approximation of a smile even as he began to tremble from the chill that visibly swept his body. “I never supported worldwide distribution of vaccines quite as much as I do now,” he quipped, the lilting humor unmistakable even with the hoarse weakness of his voice.

Michael didn’t let his expression flicker. “We could make you the poster child of the campaign,” he joked.

Billy’s eyebrows lifted, and the tremors picked up in intensity. “Seems downright cruel,” he said, “letting people suffer and perish in the throes of an entirely preventable disease.”

“Mostly preventable,” Michael amended. “You could also be the poster child for hellish bad luck, considering you’re up on your vaccines and are still here.”

Billy managed to shrug, eyes a little heavy. His teeth started to chatter intermittently, despite Billy’s obvious efforts to keep it under control. “Such is the peril when man plays God,” he said, his body starting to buck as the chill gripped him tighter.

At that, Michael had to frown. He shook his head. “We’ll check with medical when we get back,” he said. “They probably just mixed your file up; missed the dates.”

As his body convulsed, Billy still found a way to smile. It twisted with a grimace, but Michael could still read the intent. “That would make it – make it handy for you,” he said.

“It’s just logic,” Michael said.

“Wishful – thinking,” Billy ground out, his jaw muscles twitching as he tried to keep himself under control. “You can face anything – except the terrifying – notion that some things – may not be under your control.”

“If we’re careful—“

“Things still go askew,” Billy said, breathing harshly now. His limbs were taut as he tried to control his shivering. He shook his head in short, jerky motions. Even in pain, Billy’s blue eyes were clear and certain on this. “You’re not God. Our ever fearless leader, undaunted by the challenges ahead, but not God.” The shudder that shook him was worse than before. “Not God.”

The words trailed off, choked with effort, and Michael felt his own chest seize up. His team always knew; Michael worked so hard to hide things, so hard to control things, and his team knew anyway. And no matter what they were facing, his team never blamed him. Billy was suffering and he was the one offering comfort.

If Michael ever needed a clearer reminder of his own limitations, this was certainly compelling evidence. Sitting there, he was useless. He could offer nothing to assuage the fever, nothing to comfort his ailing teammate. Rick was in enemy hands. Casey was off in the line of fire. Billy was suffering right in front of him.

You’re not God.

“I know,” he said, throat tight, even as he tried to smile. He let his hand rest heavily on Billy’s trembling shoulder. “I know.”

Billy’s eyes glazed, though, his body shifting as the trembling increased. His gaze roamed, jaw working as he groaned.

Michael frowned, brow creasing. “Billy?”

Billy bucked harder, head shaking as his eyes blinked. “I’m sorry,” he said, straining now. “Holding you back – Rick –“

Billy was writhing now as the chills increased, and Michael tentatively held him down, trying to be as careful as he could. “Easy, easy,” he soothed. “It’s okay. You’re not God either, remember?”

The quip was apt, but it was lost on Billy. His face twisted with pain. “Should have been left behind,” he said. “It should have been me.”

Michael’s heart twisted, but he refused to acknowledge the conflicting emotions. Instead, he kept his grip steady, easing Billy back to the ground. “Shouldn’t have been any of you,” he said, gently now as Billy’s body heeded his command. “And I’ll fix that. I promise.”

It was an outrageous promise, maybe, but one he had to make. He wasn’t God, but he needed to try. For Rick, for Casey, for Billy: he had to try.

Billy’s expression went from pained to grieved as his eyelids fluttered, before settling closed. His body twitched a moment longer before the tension dissipated and he lay limp back on his makeshift bed.

Michael stayed where he was, moving his hand from the Scot’s arm to his forehead, refolding the compress. As he pressed it down, he felt the fresh heat, more aggressive than it was before. The fever was rising.

Billy’s face was slack now, and he didn’t flinch when Michael ran the compress across his forehead, collecting the sweat as he dragged it down Billy’s cheeks and around his neck. Michael only had a rudimentary knowledge of the disease, but this seemed fast – too fast. Billy’s conditioning was worsening, and while malaria was entirely treatable they needed the resources to do that.

He needed to get Billy out of here.

But he needed to get Rick out of here, too. And there was no feasible way to do both simultaneously. Rick’s rescue couldn’t be postponed. Any delay, and they could lose Rick forever. Either to death or as a prisoner. Michael had left Carson to that fate; he couldn’t do the same to Rick. He wouldn’t.

But that meant watching Billy suffer. That meant risking Billy’s life. It was a sacrifice the Scot would willingly make, but that didn’t make Michael feel any better.

Because failure was failure. Rick or Billy or Casey, for that matter. Michael had to save them all or the fact was that he really hadn’t saved any of them.

That was the fatal flaw in all his reasoning and planning. He operated in a compromised reality because he did not allow himself to factor in the possibility of certain failures. They had to live. They had to get out together.

Looking at Billy, Michael’s stomach churned uneasily. There was simply no other option but total success.

NEXT

Date: 2012-06-25 12:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kristen-mara.livejournal.com

I love Billy's retort to why they didn't get shot! And Casey's wish for peace. Awwwwww for Michael's care of Billy, and their discussion.

Hang in there, Rick!

Date: 2012-06-27 12:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faye-dartmouth.livejournal.com
Hah. I do love Billy's humor even under pressure.

Rick's rescue will be coming soon!

Thanks!

Date: 2012-06-25 01:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blackdog-lz.livejournal.com
You are seriously a master.

I love the little details that define the different characters. The interactions between Billy and Michael are just precious.

(And I'm sorry for forgetting to review the last part, but I've got another interview and needed to complete some writing exercises for that)

Date: 2012-06-27 12:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faye-dartmouth.livejournal.com
I always enjoy letting characters ruminate in situations of injury and illness. It's such a good vehicle for reflection.

(And don't worry! I'm glad to hear you have another interview! What's this one about?)

Thanks!

Date: 2012-06-25 11:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lena7142.livejournal.com
Aw man. Billy's suffering in this chapter is so vivid, I'm cringing and practically whimpering as I read this!

Also, the moment where he panics for a second thinking Rick is dead just /kills/ me. So much anguish in this chapter! And Michael being confronted with his own lack of omniscience and omnipotence is very powerful. Poor guy's caught between a rock and a hard place (though at least you didn't blow him up this chapter).

Eagerly awaiting further developments!

Date: 2012-06-27 12:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faye-dartmouth.livejournal.com
With a story this long, I figured I could spend some time really showcasing Billy's illness. And what fun is it to give him malaria if i don't let him be really sick?

And yeah, Michael has no easy answers in this fic. I'm really mean to Billy here, but really, I'm mostly mean to Michael.

Thanks!

Date: 2012-06-26 02:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nietie.livejournal.com
Great Billy!whumping *happy sigh*

Date: 2012-06-27 12:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faye-dartmouth.livejournal.com
You know it's my favorite thing :)

Thanks!

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