Word Count: 6757
Summary: Michael's last memory was the feeling of heat from the explosion and he had known with a deep-rooted fear that they had been too slow.
Notes: This is a sequel to Curtain Call and Hope Falls Down. Fist a Get well soon to faye_dartmouth and then a big thanks, for the great ideas and the awesome beta.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately the boys belong to the CBS, else I would have let them continue their adventures.
His ears were ringing. A shrill, wailing sound that droned out everything around him. Michael could feel dust in his lungs, his mouth and his nose. There was grit in his eyes, sticking his lashes together, and slowly aches and pains were awakening in his body.
He didn’t know what had happened to land him here, on his back with his eyes closed and his ears buzzing. There was a small voice in the back of his aching head that was telling him to slip back into the dark, to ignore everything around him. But a ray of light fell across his closed lids, lighting up the darkness and Michael forced them open.
Dust particles were dancing in the sunlight, gray granite and metal poles bright in the rays, and Michael squeezed his eyes shut again. The dull throbbing in his head had spiked with the light, turning into a sudden, stabbing ache. Michael groaned and forced his eyes open again. There was no need to delay anything and he was never known to procrastinate anyway.
Moving hurt. His muscles seemed as if they had been stretched to the limit because he could feel the strain of it now, bruises most likely covered his body, and while the spiking pain in his head was receding somewhat, it still felt as if his brain was trying to escape through his ears. His left shoulder was burning with pain, but the arm was numb, fingers tingling and feeling as if they didn’t belong to him. His mind immediately recognized the signs of a dislocation and Michael cursed. In TV-shows or bad action movies, the hero would easily pop the joint back in on his own. But unfortunately this was reality and Michael was not an overambitious cop or a near immortal action man. So he did what he could and fashioned a sling from his tie.
Now on his feet, Michael took in the destruction around him, hoping that it would help him remember. It looked as if no stone had remained standing. What once had been a warehouse was now just rubble. Light flooded in through the partially collapsed roof, illuminating the fallen pieces of mortar. Red bricks were spread over the floor, mixed with broken in plywood. And now that the ringing in his ears was slowly dying down, Michael realized that it was eerily silent, except for the odd sound of shifting debris and groaning metal.
Staring at a single, still standing metal pole in the middle of the warehouse, a memory flashed across Michael’s mind. He saw his team spaced across the empty room, Rick farthest away from him, his frame partially obscured by the metal pole, then Casey and, closest to Michael, Billy. All ready to run, because of the bomb they had found – half hidden in a wooden box, but ticking loud enough for the team to find it. None of them had wanted to even try to disarm it, the warehouse and their lives hadn’t been worth it. So they had started to run. Michael’s last memory was the feeling of heat from the explosion and he had known with a deep-rooted fear that they had been too slow.
The ODS had been betrayed; they had walked stupidly into a trap and now his team had paid the price for Michael’s inattentiveness. His hand was trembling out of fear, rage and helplessness. Because wherever he looked, there was just rubble and debris and destruction, but the rest of his team was nowhere to be seen.
He had never expected Higgins to be in the office with Fay. But it was somehow reassuring to Michael, knowing that his boss did indeed care about them despite their differences. And Fay’s voice alone calmed him down, helped him focus. She had always been his anchor, through good and bad times; she had been there for him even during their divorce. And still now, whenever something was wrong with his team, whenever one or two or, like now, all of them were injured, he found solace in her voice. Since his team was missing, injured or probably even worse, dead, Michael needed to hear her voice. So she was the first person he called. The only person he could call in a situation like this.
Knowing that she was on the other end of the line was enough for now and Michael began to search through the rubble, hoping to find any traces of his teammates. He didn’t need to talk to Fay while he searched; besides, Fay would be hard at work on her side, trying to track down the nearest team and then sending them in for an extraction.
The whole area looked desolate. Dust particles danced through rays of light and Michael felt them scratch in his throat and lungs. The ground underneath his feet shifted as he carefully treaded across, little stones and slightly larger debris shifting and rolling to the side as he made his way through. Looking at the damage, Michael felt lucky that he survived the blast with just minor injuries and he hoped that his teammates were similarly uninjured. But a small voice in the back of his mind told him that if they really were okay, he would have found them already.
Michael shook his head, ignoring the ringing and the pain that flared up with the movements. He couldn’t be pessimistic about the situation, he needed to keep up hope. Even though he knew that the longer he searched, the chances of find his friends alive were dwindling. But it was something he couldn’t accept – not now, not until he had the final proof. So he continued to shift rubble with his feet, while he held the cell phone with his uninjured arm to his ear and listed to his lifeline to reality.
“An extraction team is on its way. It should be there in about an hour,” Fay’s voice crackled through the line, but Michael didn’t reply. It wasn’t meant to be rude and Fay probably knew that he needed the silence to center himself, to concentrate on finding his teammates.
Higgins, though, didn’t know that and his voice broke again through Michael’s concentration, insistent and demanding. “What about Malick, Collins and Martinez?”
Michael had known that the question was coming, but he had also dreaded it. He liked to answer Higgins’ with concise, short and most importantly correct replies. But now all he could do was tell him that he had no idea. And that sent a new spike of fear through him. Because as a team leader he was responsible for his men and not knowing where they were and what their conditions were, was unacceptable. And he wouldn’t give up his search for them until he found them.
He didn’t know what made him spot Billy – probably another shaft of light coming in from the mostly ruined roof – but what he saw made his stomach churn anew with nausea. He’d seen plenty of injuries during his life and blood had never made him squeamish – he had wanted to become a doctor after all – but the sight of a rebar sticking out of Billy’s chest, blood and rust coating the metal, was enough to make him swallow down bile.
Michael stood frozen for a few seconds, cell phone still in his right hand and held to his ear as he tried to breathe through the nausea churning his stomach. He must have cursed, because Fay’s voice came tinny and scared over the phone as she asked about what had happened.
“ Just found Billy,” Michael told Fay and Higgins, keeping it short and to the point, hoping to not show them just how scared he was.
He slowly stepped closer, carefully not disturbing any of the rubble underneath his shoes. Up close it looked even worse. Billy was pale and blood had soaked into his shirt around the rebar. His breathing was labored; a wet, rattling noise escaped his lips and his chest was struggling to rise.
“You said an hour until reinforcements arrive, right?” Michael asked. He knew what Fay had told him just minutes ago, but he still needed confirmation again, simply to make the situation more real. While his eyes took in the situation, his heart couldn’t accept it just yet. And the more details he had about their coming rescue, the better he knew just what he needed to fix this situation.
“Just about, maybe a bit less. Why?” Fay asked and Michael could see her in his mind, sitting at her desk, slightly bent toward the phone, maybe even playing with one of her curls and her face creased in worry. He took a deep breath, taking that image to draw strength and then forced himself to concentrate on the situation at hand.
And the situation was painfully clear. The extraction team, according to Fay's approximation, would take an hour to arrive. That was an hour that Billy might not have. Michael felt his heart sink. Billy might not even survive the next ten minutes, let alone an hour.
“Tell them to get here faster,” Michael replied and let the phone fall down amongst the debris. Right now, he didn’t care what would happen to it and he needed his working right hand. Besides, when they all made it back – and they had to make it back, Michael couldn't let himself believe otherwise – he would get a replacement anyway.
His hesitation was unfounded, though, because the phone still seemed to work. Higgins’ voice cut through the groaning of the wood and the shifting of the debris. “How bad is it?”
Michael took another deep breath. It was a valid, important question. One that he needed an answer to, but one that he also feared the answer of. But standing still, just watching, he wasn’t going to find that out anytime soon.
Yet, the scene before him was daunting. Frightening even. Michael had seen a lot in his time with the CIA, but he hadn't seen this.
“Bad. He’s impaled on rebar,” Michael finally replied, trying to not give away too much, but also knowing that Higgins was not going to leave it at that. He was their boss and therefore needed to have as much information as he could. As a general rule, the ODS only gave him bits and pieces; enough to keep him just outside the loop. It was a tight rope they generally walked and usually they didn’t manage to trip, but somehow Michael knew that this time the more information he gave Higgins, the better it would be. The man wanted to disband the ODS, but he never wished actual harm on them. He valued them more than that, even if he'd never admit it.
So Michael scrambled closer to Billy, ignoring his own screaming muscles and the fire that burned in his shoulder. But it somehow faded into the background – the pain always did when he had other, more important things on his mind, like Billy.
His fingers left dirty smudges on Billy's neck, and what they found tied a tight knot in Michael's stomach. Because Billy’s pulse was fast and thready. A clear sign of shock and really, Michael should have expected this, but there was a difference between knowing and feeling it. He felt his heart speed up in response. He had the same feelings whenever one of his men was injured in the field. It was not something he could ever get used to, although he knew it happened far too often. And every time he felt guilty. This time however he felt even more helpless than usual.
Higgins’ voice was getting harder to understand as he repeated his question. It was getting more tinnier and decreasing in volume as the connection slowly broke up. In the back of Michael's mind, he knew that was probably problematic. Under normal circumstances, maintaining contact with Langley was imperative but this time, he couldn't quite focus on it. Generally Michael always kept his senses attuned to his surroundings – he had to. As a spy it could get you killed if you weren’t aware of what was going on around you. But Billy needed his complete attention right now.
Not that Michael knew what he should do; for all his experience in manipulating people, he had no idea how to mend people. Sure, he did the mandatory first aid courses and still had a basic knowledge of medicine that made him understand the medical talk at hospitals. But this was a situation he had never been confronted with before. Michael was helpless; alone, he couldn’t do anything at all. Because the rebar protruded from the right side of Billy’s chest, somewhere between the sixth and the seventh rib. And with that it went straight through the lung. The good news was that the rebar also worked as a plug, keeping Billy from bleeding out. Really, in this way, the rebar was the only thing keeping Billy alive. But it was already affecting his breathing and Michael knew that it would only get worse the more time passed.
It went against all of Michael’s instincts to not do anything, but he knew that he couldn’t remove the rebar, not on his own without the proper equipment and certainly not without real professional help that would be able to stop the bleeding. But no matter how much he hated sitting at the sidelines and doing nothing, he had no other choice.
He spoke his findings out loud, but by now Michael thought that it probably was a moot point anyway. The connection had been breaking up and the phone was lying a good few feet away from his position. And his voice was raspy from the dust flying around, so he had no idea just how much information was getting across. At this point, he didn't care. He didn't care about anything except the ragged rise and fall of Billy chest, one strained breath after another.
Help was coming: Michael knew this, he couldn't shake the fear that the rescue wasn’t going to come fast enough. And there still was no sign of either Casey or Rick. They had to be either badly injured or worse, dead, because otherwise they would have found him.
It scared him, more than he ever wanted to, or could admit. Because he could lose his whole team in one botched mission.
The wait for the rescue team seemed endless. The phone had stopped working completely at some point. Not that Michael had actually gotten up to check it. But when he hadn’t heard anything from Fay or Higgins for several minutes, he could guess that the tenuous connection had finally cut out entirely.
It made him feel slightly more vulnerable, knowing that the only connection he had to safety had been cut. Even though the situation was technically under control and chances were small that their former targets were going to come back to check if the bomb had really killed them all, it had reassured him to know that there was somebody on the other end of the line, who knew what was going on, what their current situation was. Now he had no one to talk to, just an unconscious Billy. That was hardly reassuring.
The pain in his shoulder had decreased, but his fingers and his hand had gone completely numb. With every dislocation there was a chance of nerve damage; Michael hoped that his senseless arm was just a symptom of the steadily hardening muscles in his joint. He wouldn’t know for sure until the shoulder was back in its place; all he could do right now was hope.
The whole situation unbalanced him; he worked best with his team beside him. Drew strength and confidence from them. And now, not knowing where they were, or if they were going to survive was nearly tearing him apart. He would trade places with any of them in a heartbeat if that meant that they would make it out alive. Hell, he even would offer himself to their former targets if that would save his friends.
But he knew that that wasn’t going to happen, it was just a wish, one that would never come true. And Michael had never felt so out of control. It wasn’t just his own life that was on the line here, he had put his teammates lives in danger too. It was all part of the job, Michael knew this, he also knew that Rick, Billy or Casey would do the exact same thing, would offer their lives for the safety of their country and team. But right now, watching Billy slowly dying in front of him, that didn’t reassured him at all, that just made him more angry.
His own injuries just intensified these feelings, as his head was still ringing and his vision swam from time to time. It was their job to risk life and limb so that the rest of the world could sleep safe and secure, but sometimes it felt unreal and unfair to Michael that it always was his team that had to pay the price for security. Sometimes Michael just wanted it all to stop, wanted to have a safe life of his own.
It didn’t matter that he knew that he was not meant to live in a nice little house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, that he sought the danger and the adrenaline like his teammates. But not knowing where Rick and Casey were and looking at Billy, at the lips that slowly turned blue or at the chest that struggled to rise, Michael yearned for a little piece and quiet.
Michael had placed his uninjured hand on Billy’s shoulder; partly to show the Scot that he wasn’t alone, partly to reassure Michael that Billy was still breathing. He murmured words from time to time, words with no real meanings, just simply another distraction. The silence that had settled over the place felt far unnatural to Michael.
So his ears immediately picked up a change in the silence. The noise was low at first, hardly audible, but slowly and definitely became louder and then identifiable as approaching footsteps. Michael sighed in relief at the sounds and some of the pent-up anxiety released in his shoulders.
He leaned in closer to Billy again, gave the shoulder underneath his hand a quick squeeze, before he softly said, “Help’s finally here, Billy. Just keep on breathing and everything will be alright.”
He forced himself to his feet, ignored the darkening of his vision and raised his one, good arm in the air and yelled for help.
Rick and Casey were still alive. That had been a huge relief for Michael, even though he knew that this was still far from over.
The extraction team had come well prepared and four ambulances had been parked outside the destroyed warehouse, along with several police cruisers and an uncountable number of police officers and firefighters who were securing the scene.
Michael refused to be transported on a stretcher, instead he walked right beside Billy’s. It had been horrible to watch at the side lines, as the medics had done everything possible to stabilize Billy and then cut through the rebar pinning him to the floor. Those were pictures that were going to haunt Michael for the rest of his life, Dorset knew this.
But simply the sight of his two other operatives eased his frayed nerves. Rick was conscious and just as relieved as Michael to see the rest of his friends, no matter how injured. At least they were all still alive, even though Casey was deeply unconscious and blood was already staining the pristine bandage that had been tied around his head.
Despite Michael’s protests, the medics had placed the four of them in different ambulances, claiming the need for space. Michael felt his anxiety rise again at the thought and the feeling of being separated again.
He just got his team back, broken and hurt, but at least they had been together. Being divided again didn’t sit right with Michael; it wasn’t just the not knowing about how they were doing, it was a feeling he couldn’t quite describe, even to himself. But he thought it simply was because he was unbalanced without his friends around him.
And his bad feeling proved to be justified because Billy crashed in the ambulance and he was dead when he was rolled into the ER. Casey was still deeply unconscious and hadn’t reacted to any stimuli. The only one awake and aware was Rick. And while Michael knew that he should be happy about at least this, he couldn’t stop worrying, couldn’t stop feeling helpless. Most of this news came from the nurses, but he had caught a short glimpse of Billy, unresponsive and surrounded by medics, when they had arrived at the ER at the same time.
At the hospital, the nurses already knew how to deal with them and Michael had to hide a smile, because that surely was Fay’s doing. And Michael was grateful for her adamancy and for not stopping even though they had been found and technically the mission should have been over for her.
So after his shoulder had been X-rayed, relocated and placed in a sling and the doctors had lectured him about the dangers of a concussion, a nurse had brought him to Rick’s room. There was no news about either Billy or Casey just yet and that was setting Michael on the edge, and he had a hard time controlling himself.
The younger operative’s leg had been badly broken and was now suspended above the mattress. But the drugs running through Rick’s system were enough to keep him out until the next morning and Michael was tremendously glad about it. That way Rick didn’t see his team leader breaking apart, didn’t see the hopelessness and the helplessness that rested on his shoulders and in his heart. There was nothing Michael could do but sit and hope.
He would pray, but Michael had stopped believing in a benevolent God years ago. The last time he had been in a church had been at his wedding. Still, Michael had unconsciously found his way the hospital’s small chapel after the doctors had told him the news about Casey.
A skull fracture and a coma, no when’s just if’s. And Billy was still in surgery with no guarantee that he would make it.
Michael had already lost Simms due to an explosion in a warehouse and now it looked as if he was going to lose Billy and Casey too.
Staring at the wooden cross on the altar, Michael prayed for the first time in years.
Billy’s and Casey’s complexions were completely different. Casey was deadly pale, grey tingeing the skin under his eyes and, while Billy was also pale, his cheeks were red with the fever that burned through him. And Michael didn’t know what looked worse.
He sat in between the two beds, the silent beeping of the two heartbeats oddly synchronized, but interrupted by the steady swooshing sound of the ventilator breathing for Billy.
Two days ago the warehouse had exploded and since then nothing had changed. Casey was still in a coma, Billy was fighting with sepsis and Rick was stuck in a hospital bed a few floors down.
Fay’s daily calls were a lifeline for Michael. They lifted his spirits and calmed his nerves. She made him feel like everything was going to be okay again and he needed that. Because with Billy and Casey still more dead than alive in the ICU, his world seemed to breaking apart and Fay’s voice was the string holding it together.
But Michael knew that, should Billy wake up, Casey would soon follow. The two were the strangest team Michael had ever seen in action. They were at odds most of the time, different not just in appearance but also in mindset, but when it came to working together they were incredibly in sync. An almost unbeatable team. So Michael knew that should one of them wake up – and Michael couldn’t bear to think otherwise – the other would be okay too.
So he had to trust in his team that they would fight and find their way back. And until then all Michael could do was wait.
They only let him stay with Billy or Casey for short periods and when he wasn’t sitting in the chair between the two beds in ICU, Michael was sitting beside Rick. At least the younger operative was showing signs of improvement. He was nearly completely off the pain meds and the doctors had allowed him to move around on crutches; there was even talk about Rick getting released soon.
Still it was an exhausting regime and all Michael wanted to do was to lie down and sleep, but he couldn’t, wouldn’t allow himself the rest until he knew that his men would be alright. It was a show of solidarity, of showing his men that he would never abandon them.
The days still dragged on and Michael only slept or ate when Rick forced him to. And in that Michael was proud. Rick was taking on more responsibility, was actually going face to face with him when necessary. They did good in teaching Rick the ropes of the spy game and shaping him into the man he was now. Although Michael knew that without Billy to offer support and Casey to show him self-defense none of this would have been possible. Which was why they couldn't lose them now.
And slowly but steadily Billy was improving. His fever was dropping after it had spiked yesterday and he was showing the first signs of coming around. There was no way Michael could stop now.
Four days after the explosion, while Michael was sitting in his customary chair in the ICU, Billy finally opened his eyes. They were clouded with pain and drugs, but they focused on Michael for the few seconds they were open.
Michael sat up and leaned over the bed, making sure that he was in Billy’s line of sight. He knew that his eyes reflected the incredible relief he felt, because two thirds of his team was awake and that was more than Michael imagined was possible just a few short days ago.
He placed his hand back on Billy’s shoulder, nearly the exact same place where it had rested in the warehouse and squeezed softly. No words were exchanged, but it didn’t really matter for now. Eye contact was more important than words, especially since Billy couldn’t speak with the tube still in place.
Billy’s eyes slipped shut again, and his heartbeat evened out as he slipped back under, but Michael knew that it was just a matter of time before everything would slip back to normal. Or at least as normal as life with the ODS would ever be.
As Michael expected, things improved from that point onwards. Billy was predictable in this. He tended to get injured often, sometimes not so bad and sometimes bad, but once he woke up he would always bounce back fast. So it was no surprise to Michael that an hour after Billy woke up for the first time, the doctors removed the ventilator.
Billy woke up for a second time just a few hours after that. As soon as Michael saw Billy’s lids twitch again, he leaned forward, placed his elbows on his knees and watched as Billy blinked lazily and then finally turned unfocussed eyes to his team leader.
“We still alive?” Billy asked. His voice sounded rough from the ventilator and disuse, but Michael had never been so glad to hear it. Because Billy was aware and that meant that two thirds of his team would be fine, would survive and Casey would stand no chance against their combined force to bring him back.
“Yeah, we are,” Michael replied and stretched his hand out to retrieve the ice chips a nurse had left there. He gave some to Billy, who gulped them down greedily, before speaking again.
“Doesn’t feel like it.”
Michael snorted softly – that must have been a serious understatement. “Don’t worry about it for now, Billy. It’ll be better next time you wake up.”
Because even though Billy had been talking, the Scot’s eyes had closed again. Michael knew from experience that it would be a while until Billy would stay awake for longer periods of time and for now he was glad for it, because it also meant that Billy hadn’t realized that Malick was in the other bed. Knowing Billy, the other man would worry more about his teammates than about his own condition. For now Billy would be sleeping peacefully and not worry about anything else, because that was still, and would always be, Michael’s job.
Over the next day, Billy woke up more often and for longer. And as soon as he was more aware he started asking about the rest of his teammates. Michael’s sling was highly visible and a second after Billy had seen this, his eyes had found Casey. His voice was still rough and weak, despite the ice and the water, but if anything, Billy was more determined to use it after he found out about Casey’s condition.
Despite his best efforts, Billy still tended to fall asleep mid-sentence, but whenever he woke up again, he just started at the exact same point in the one-sided conversation. It was impressive, really. But it was that tenacity that reassured Michael. If there was one person that could wake Casey up, it would be Billy.
The first words Casey muttered when he woke up were “Shut up, Collins.” And Michael had to fight hard not to laugh. There were tear in his eyes though – tears he would deny, because they clearly came from mirth and not relief. Fortunately, no one seemed likely to call him on it, not when they all felt the same.
Hearing Billy and Casey bicker was the last piece that slid back into place and suddenly Michael felt centered again. He didn’t feel as if he was back in control, there were still a few things Michael had no say over, but his team was back on the mend and for now that was all he needed. He felt relaxed and let the voices of his friends wash over him, no matter how uncomfortable the chair was and no matter how tired he actually was.
“You do know that just because we slept the last few days away, doesn’t mean that you had to stay awake,” Casey’s voice broke through his thoughts and Michael sat up straighter again, had to blink a couple of times to get back into the here and now.
“What makes you think that I haven’t been sleeping?” Michael asked, he knew that the confrontation would eventually come. It always did, he just had hoped that he would have had more time to actually prepare for it.
“We may be injured, Michael, but we’re not blind,” this time it was Billy and Michael’s gaze whipped from Casey’s still pasty face, to Billy’s slightly flushed one.
“Besides, Rick is a very good source for information,” Casey stated.
Michael glared. He knew what was happening; his operatives were tag teaming in an effort to bully him into rest. It wasn’t the first time that this happened and Michael was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be the last time either.
“And considering that we all are better,” Billy continued, “you should go and get some rest. We can deal for a few hours without you.”
This time Michael sighed. He was beyond tired and his team was safe. But there were still few short seconds, where it felt like this was all a dream. That his team wasn’t safe and he was still in that bombed out warehouse, trapped and slowly dying. It was an image he couldn’t quiet shake and also one of the countless reasons why he hadn’t even tried to sleep just yet.
“We can always sic Fay on you. Because she totally would fly down here if we asked her to,” Billy said, voice light and finally rid of that scratchy sound.
Michael knew that he shouldn’t be giving up so easily – couldn’t let his operatives think they could wield any power about his bed times – so he grumbled under his breath as he pushed out of the chair.
“And don’t even think about stopping by Martinez,” Casey added, staring him down with no malice in his eyes.
It was a good feeling, knowing that his team knew him so well. Even if it let to situations like these, where he was bullied into rest.
He left with a quick wave and the knowledge that his friends were safe for the moment.
The calls from Fay slowly faded from twice a day to maybe once every other day. But now that they were all safe and recovering, she had other things to do, like planning missions for other operatives and relaxing. And Michael had his team back. He didn’t need the outside encouragement anymore.
Fay had promised him a military flight back home the first time they had spoken over the phone, back when he had no idea if Casey or Billy would even be using the seats. But now, the plane was waiting at the next airport for them and all Michael had to do was pick up Billy and Casey from the hospital.
Rick had shared the hotel room with him the past week, the first to be released from hospital. It had helped to know that at least one teammate was close by. And Rick was really shaping up, staying up with him during the nightmares and just simply talking to him about anything else, anything inconsequential and not related to work.
Michael was grateful for that distraction, grateful that he wasn’t alone anymore with just Fay’s voice over the phone, no matter how southing or reassuring it was. Maybe one day he would even be able to tell Rick that, unless the younger operative figured it out by himself at some point, just like Billy or Casey did years ago. It certainly spared him from actually saying it out loud.
The flight was long, painful and boring. It was a military plane, specially constructed to transport injured soldiers back home, so there were stretchers in the back. Two of which were currently occupied by Billy and Casey, both sedated for the long flight and monitored closely by an Army medic that flew with them.
Rick was lying on a third cot, his casted leg secured tightly to protect it against any turbulence but not too heavily sedated that he would sleep all the way through. Michael was sitting on a fourth cot, facing Rick as he leaned with his back against the wall. It wasn’t the most comfortable flight he had ever taken, but it didn’t much matter, because they were together and they were alive.
“It’s kind of too silent without them bickering at each other, isn’t it?” Rick asked, sometime over the middle over the ocean.
Michael’s gaze immediately followed Rick’s and landed on Billy before looking back to Rick. This time he couldn’t suppress a smile. “Enjoy it, it won’t last.”
“I know, but for a while back there in the warehouse I thought I would never hear it again.” Rick’s gaze was now leveled at Michael, fear openly visible in them.
“Me too,” Michael replied honestly. “But you know those two, far too stubborn to give up. A little bomb wouldn’t bring them down.”
“As long as we work together, I sure hope nothing. Listen, Martinez you did good out there.”
Rick looked uncomfortable at the compliment and shrugged his shoulders before he replied, “I didn’t do anything.”
“You stayed calm, you didn’t do anything rash. Sometimes that is the best you can do,” Michael replied.
And this time Rick nodded, taking the advice and the compliment and looked back toward Billy and Casey. “As long as we all come back it’s a successful mission, right?”
“Right. Get some more sleep, Rick. You’ll be needing it, landing will be tough,” Michael said and slouched farther down, preparing to get some sleep himself. It wasn’t comfortable, but he was safe, his team was safe and in a few hours they back home and sometimes that was all that counted.
Fay and Adele were waiting for them at the air strip. He knew Adele would probably justify it as part of her responsibilities as Deputy Director, but Michael suspected she was as anxious to see Rick as anything. As for Fay, Michael knew she liked to see her missions through to the end. Even if they weren't married anymore, she was always the one he was coming home to and he knew she'd always be the one waiting. It would be good to see her in person, it would be good to hear her voice again. And she would be a great ally in helping him convince Billy and Casey to stay at his place for the time being.
The four of them were always in close quarters, mission or no mission. They were always in contact somehow, were it by phone or a quick email. Living as a spy was dangerous, it didn’t matter if they were on foreign soil or home land. And these quick check ins were Michael’s reassurance that his team was still alive. Besides that, they had become friends and friends went out for drinks now and again.
After mission like the last one, where everything had gone downhill and then some, Michael needed the close contact even more. He needed the reassurance that they all really were safe and alive. Leaving Billy alone in his hotel room and Casey in his apartment was not on option. Michael knew that Rick would be safe with Adele, so the other two would have to be safe with him.
He was right about Fay being an ally, because she refused to drive either Billy or Casey to their respective homes. And while both men were fearless in the field, would stand up to anyone who stood in their way, they were not going to try to cross his ex-wife. No one did.
The first days back on the job were lonely.
The office was too silent without Billy’s antics and Casey’s grumbling and Rick’s amused snorts. It felt like all the life had been sucked out of it. His only consolation was that he had the life back at his house instead.
So he spent a lot of his time at work with Fay. She had been his lifeline; it only seemed fair that he now brought her coffee from time to time. Besides, she was always up for a talk and a friendly word and it made the days seemingly shorter.
Things better once Rick was back. The office felt less empty, but it was still too silent. And whenever Rick limped over to Adele, Michael spend his time with Fay. It only seemed right.
Once Billy and Casey were back at their respective desks, things easily slipped back into place. Months had passed since the explosion and Michael still had nightmares about it, could see his teammates dying in his dreams. But those dreams had become routine too and when he woke up, feeling helpless and scared, he just needed to remind himself that his friends were just a phone call away. Needless to say, Billy and Casey had gotten used to midnight calls.
It was a Monday morning, two months after they all were back in the office, when Michael realized that they need to get back into the field. Casey had already destroyed two stress balls, the stack of files on Billy’s desk looked like it might be ready to eat him and Rick was staring to learn yet another language.
His team was bored. Which meant that they were ready to go back to the field. So he made his way to the kitchen and prepared a coffee just the way Fay liked it best. Because that was one sure way to get the next best mission and into the field, where they all belonged.