Title: Five Times Billy Was Beat Up
Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.
A/N: This one is for my assault square in hc_bingo. Beta provided by the amazing sockie1000. Some of the preseries ideas were inspired by lena7142 but she's been gracious enough to let me work with her plot bunnies.
Summary: Billy knows how to throw a punch. If only because he's taken so many over the course of his life.
Billy comes home from school with a black eye and a busted lip. His mother fusses over him, presses ice to his face and stroking his hair. He's still hunched over the kitchen table, nursing his wounds, when his father comes home.
"What the hell happened to you?" the old man growls.
"Got into a fight," Billy admits thickly.
His father's brow darkens. "Did you start it?"
"Then why did you get your arse handed to you?" he asks.
Billy shrugs. "He was bigger," he says. "The Mallory boy, down the street."
His father swears. "That lad's twice your size," he says. "What were you thinking?"
"He's not very nice," Billy mumbles. "He teases all the kids and steals their lunches."
"So you thought you'd teach him a lesson by letting him beat you silly?" his father asks skeptically.
"I reckoned it would be best if someone tried to teach him a lesson," Billy replies stiffly.
His father shakes his head, moving to the icebox to take out a drink. "Somehow I doubt he learned anything."
"That's not true," Billy says.
His father pops the lid off a beer, looking back at Billy hopefully. "Did you get some licks in?"
"Not really, but that's not the point," he says.
"Then, do enlighten me," his father says with smirking exasperation.
"He knows now he has to fight for it," Billy says, putting the melting ice on the table. "He can't just have whatever he wants for nothing."
"Except he can, son," his father says, taking a drink. "All you did was delay the inevitable and paint a target on your backside."
Billy bristles, his pride wounded as much as his face now. "You always said never to back away from a fight," he insists. "You said that I had to learn about fighting."
"How to win a fight, yeah," his father says on his way to the living room. "All this teaches you is how to lose a fight. Not a very valuable skill, I'm afraid."
Billy sits at the table, sulking. He's in pain, and he's a little embarrassed, but he doesn't regret it. Because maybe he lost the fight.
But he didn't lose the principle that made him throw that first punch.
It had just seemed right, taking aim at a threat no one else dared go near. It hadn't occurred it him until he was being knocked on his arse that he'd picked a fight he could never win.
Some fights, he reckoned, had to be fought.
Whether you won them or not.
Growing up, Billy's never shied away from a fight. At school, his teachers had always been somewhat perplexed how Billy managed to find himself at fisticuffs so often without being the one to throw the first punch, nine times out of ten. Billy's always chalked that one up to his undeniable charm.
It's his charm that is the problem this time, though his cause is somewhat less noble.
Truth be told, this time he might actually have it coming.
"What the hell?" Edward yells, slamming his fist into Billy's face again. "You think you can just go around sleeping with my girl?"
Billy retreats as best he can, putting his arms up over his face while Edward throws another punch. He's taken a few hits to the face, and he's halfway between standing and sitting while Edward advances on him and Lydia scrambles to find herself a t-shirt. "Last I checked, she's her own woman," Billy says, spitting blood from his cut lip. "And, to be fair, there wasn't a lot of sleeping going on."
It's a damn good line, and Billy knows it.
Unfortunately, Edward is not in the mood for humor.
His face contorts in rage, and he comes at Billy again. Dazed as he is, Billy barely manages to put up a defense. Edward swings fast and hard, and he's on the bloody rowing team with arms like that. One of the punches smashes his nose; another clips a tooth; the next makes his ears ring as everything goes dark-
Bloody hell, Billy thinks idly as he lies insensate on the floor. He's going to be beat to death in his pants.
He blinks, and Edward is above him, dragging him up by the hair and shaking him violently. The bloke is speaking - screaming, really, with spittal flying in Billy's face - but Billy can't make heads or tails of anything. He'd known better than this, maybe. Lydia's never been discreet when it comes to her relationship with Edward, but as far as boyfriend's go, Edward's such an unmitigated idiot, that Billy had given her the benefit of the doubt when she said it was over between them.
It hadn't occurred to him to cross reference that claim.
Or check to be sure that Lydia had collected her key from him before inviting Billy to stay the night.
Edward knees him in the gut, shoving Billy back before kicking him in the chest. Billy fumbles backward, taking out the coffee table while Edward stalks over toward him and drags him up once more.
"You're a bloody asshole, Collins," Edward hisses. "You'll live to regret this."
"Edward!" Lydia is yelling. "Don't-"
Edward doesn't listen, though. His eyes are locked on Billy's, and he pulls his hand back. Billy's sees the punch coming, but there's no reason to fight.
Lydia yells; Edward throws the punch; and Billy passes out.
When he wakes up, Lydia is crying and begging. "Oh, thank God," she says. "I thought you were dead."
Billy creases his forehead with difficulty, swallowing blood. "Wha' happened?"
"You got the hell beaten out of you," she says. "I told him I was going to call the police, but he'll be back, and he may bring his friends."
She helps Billy sit up, and if not for her steadying hand, he probably would have passed out. "Huh," is all he can think to say while his head throbs. He can actually feel his face starting to swell, his right eye almost closed up and his lip so big that it's split and tender.
"Why didn't you fight back?" she asks, sounding a little desperate as she gives him his eans.
Billy blinks a few more times, swallowing to quell the nausea. "To be fair, I did sleep with his girlfriend," he points out, helping half heartedly as Lydia shoves his feet into each leg of his jeans.
"So you decided to let him beat you senseless?" she asks. "He might have killed you!"
"Girl like you," Billy slurs while the room spins in lazy circles. "Seems worth fighting for."
"That's actually sweet," she says, yanking his pants up a little higher. "And very stupid. Why didn't you fight for me, then?"
"Lydia, I was with you all last night," he says. "You're a woman who needs no one to defend you."
She laughs, sounding a little hysterical. "I knew there was a reason you were worth it," she says, helping him to his feet while he hikes his jeans up the rest of the way to his waist. She hands him his shirt and his shoes. "Maybe we can do it again sometime?"
Billy looks at her blearily, doing his best not to fall over.
"The sex, I mean," she says hurriedly as she helps him to the door. "Maybe not the part where you nearly got yourself killed."
Billy haphazardly pulls on his shirt, but the idea of bending down to put on his shoes is more than he can handle at the moment. "Maybe you should break up with him first," he suggests, feeling his tongue around the cut on the inside of his lip.
"That might help, I suppose," she says thoughtfully.
Billy stumbles out the front door, shoes in one hand and holding his pants up with the other. "Just a little," he agrees.
She smiles, pressing a kiss to his less damaged cheek. "Call me," she says with a small wave before she ducks back inside.
Billy stands there for a moment, looking at the closed door, feeling a bit confused. It's not quite occurred to him that with so many things worth fighting for, some things really aren't worth it. Moreover, it's possible to be on the wrong side of a conflict even when he's not lifted a fist.
Is Edward a chauvinistic jerk who takes his girlfriend for granted and resorts to violence when he's mad? Yes, and it's all the worse for him.
But Billy's still the bad guy in this story.
Limping home, he's pretty sure that fact makes him feel worse than any of the cuts and bruises combined.
"Look," Billy says, holding his hands up with his most disarming smile. At least, he hopes it's disarming, because he is currently not armed and the three criminals around him are very, very armed. "There's been some sort of misunderstanding."
"Yes," the biggest one says, eyes narrowed as he takes another step toward Billy. "I believe you misunderstood what I meant when I said that I did not tolerate deception."
Billy laughs nervously, taking a step back himself. "I'm not sure what you think I'm lying about," he says. "I have been nothing if not honest with you blokes-"
The big one advances another step, cracking his knuckles. "Then tell me," he says. "Why did we follow your associate back to a known spy house? Why did he confess to working for MI6? To working for you?"
Billy's stomach churns, and he steps another step back as he tries to swallow back his fear. "Petrov?" he asks, voice not quite staying steady. "Like Petrov's a reliable source-"
"Petrov's loyalties have already been dealt with," he says flatly. "He will no longer be a problem."
Billy feels positively sick now. Petrov was his asset; he was the entire mission. If Petrov is dead, then this whole bloody thing is up in flames.
"We also have names of other British operatives in the area," the big one says, smirking now as he takes another step forward. "The streets will run red today."
Billy's head goes light now. This is worse than he imagined. There's been a serious breach of protocol somewhere, that outed Petrov and exposed the entire network.
"Louis Gregson," the man says. "Albert Hollingbrook. Georgia Tanner."
Billy does his best not to flinch as the names of his mates across the region are spoken, one after another, effectively ending their careers.
If not their lives.
The man takes another step, and Billy backs up to the wall of the alley.
With a feral smile, the man rolls his shoulders. "But that's for later," he says. "For now, Billy Collins, we have some questions to ask you."
This time, Billy can't help but flinch. He's backed into a corner, and his cover is blown. The lives of his friends are at stake, and he doesn't know how it happened, but it knows it will be bad. He knows, with some probability, that he's not likely to survive this confrontation, but if he's going to die, he's not going to die idly.
No, sometimes the best reason to fight is because there's nothing else you can do. Sometimes, you fight because it's the only option left on the table.
Bloody hell, Billy thinks. If this is it, he's going to make it count.
Gritting his teeth, he balls his fist and throws the hardest punch he can. He feels the pain of bone on bone, and hears an ominous crack as the skin on his knuckles split and the large man tumbles backward toward the ground.
It's not what they're expecting, and Billy follows up the first punch but taking a jab at the second goon on the left. With one, well placed punch, he breaks the man's nose, and he rams his foot into the man's gut to send him sprawling down the alleyway.
When he turns to the third, though-
He's greeted with a fist that catches him in the eye. His vision goes white, and his ears ring. He staggers, blinking rapidly as he tries to clear his vision.
Just in time to see the second punch.
It hits him in the jaw, jarring him to the side before a kick to the gut sends him toppling forward. Someone knees him in the face and he hits the ground all fours.
Blood and saliva drool out of his mouth, and his head is spinning when someone hauls him up, holding his arms back.
This time he doesn't see the first punch. Or the second or the third. He loses count somewhere after the sixth, before the blows shift to his torso. He tries to curl in, but can't with the arms holding him up, and he's out of breath and crying when suddenly he realizes that it's stopped.
He's dangling now, the pressure on his shoulders sharp as his own legs refuse to support him. There's a curse in Russian before coarse hands grab him by the chin and lift his head.
Billy's vision is badly blurred, but he can still make out the visage of the first man with blood trickling down his face as a bruise darkens lividly around his eye.
"I wish I could say I respect your effort," he says. "But I respect nothing about you. I will beat you like a dog, and you will be left out like the piece of trash you are."
Billy's head lolls. "You mixed your metaphors, mate," he slurs.
The man's face darkens and he drops Billy's chin before leveling him with a punch that turns him fully around before he falls gracelessly to the pavement.
That's it, Billy thinks dimly as he breathes through the blood that clogs his nose and throat.
When the next round of blows come - kicks to his gut and chest - Billy has no defense. There's nothing he can do. He doesn't know the last blow that sends him to oblivion, but for the love of all that is good and true, he never forgets the fact that he threw the first one.
Somehow, in the long months of recovery and the disciplinary trial that leads to his expulsion from MI6 and the country, he likes to think that matters.
Honestly, Billy can't quite remember how this started. Sure, he remembers something of a mission and a dangerously held together cover. He remembers snippets of a plan and a strongly worded warning from Michael how things had to stay together at all costs.
But then, Billy also remembers kissing Olivia Drummond and the bottle of scotch he left in his flat back in London, so he's not entirely sure all these things are relevant at this exact moment in time.
No, the only thing that is relevant is that burly hulk of a man bashing in Billy's face.
The bloke seems to be taking his time with it, which Billy thinks is probably a good thing. The longer this drags on, the more likely it is that Billy will come out alive. Not that he actually expects to win this fight - there's not a chance in bloody hell at this point - but there's a chance that maybe the man doesn't actually want to kill him.
Because if he does, there are surely more efficient ways to do it.
"Come on, you asshole," the man grunts as Billy gets drunkenly to his feet. "You can do better than that."
Billy's not sure about that, but he does like to be obliging. He gets his footing and lunges with his fist out.
And misses horribly. The man grabs his hand, using his momentum to slam Billy into the wall. Before he can crumple to the ground, he turns on Billy, placing a powerful boot into Billy's ribcage.
He slams into the wall again, head cracking against the brick as he literally sees stars. He blinks a few times before he realizes he's on the ground.
"You wanted to fight?" the man taunts. "So fight, you bastard. Fight."
Billy tries to get up, but it hurts to breathe and his vision is pretty much a mess of spots and smears. He falters, falling to his hands and knees as he gasps for air. The man takes him by the hair, yanking him up until Billy's in a standing position.
Which is when he levels him with a punch that knocks him senseless.
That's not an exaggeration.
Billy reckons he's never had much sense, but whatever he'd pretended to have is gone. He doesn't know where he is or who he is or why he is. He just knows he started a fight that he surely just lost in the most spectacular way possible.
This much is something he's willing to accept, for the time being, but then he's forced back to consciousness by the point of a blade.
Dug into the bottom of his chin.
"Well," the man says. "As fun as this has been-"
Billy doesn't even have time to panic because the man crumples to the side, going limp on the pavement next to him without so much as a sound.
Blinking, Billy makes out two more blobs.
"You came," Billy slurs through his broken teeth and swollen lips.
Carson curses. "Good thing, too," he says, reaching down to haul Billy upright.
Billy grunts as he's dragged to a sitting position. "I had it totally under control," he says thickly.
"Uh huh," Casey says as she strips the man of weapons. "That's why your face looks like ground beef."
Billy's too dazed to even wince at the implication. "All part of the plan," he says, swallowing a mouthful of blood because spitting takes too much work.
Carson raises his eyebrows as he runs his hands down Billy's front, checking for injuries. "Your plan was to pick a fight with a former olympic boxer who has killed three opponents in the ring with a single punch?"
Billy tries to think about that, but mostly fails. Probably because he's badly concussed. "Michael said we had to keep him busy," he says, as the details slowly come back to him. He squints up at Carson and Casey. "Is he alright? The mission-"
"Michael got the deal done," Casey assures him. "Surprisingly, it was a total success."
"Unless you count the fact that the kid just got his ass kicked," Carson says.
"Like I said," Billy mumbles vaguely as he tries to stave the blackness off from the corners of his vision. "All part of the plan."
"Seriously," Carson says. "That was your plan? To distract his fist with your face?"
Billy looks at Carson. "It worked, didn't it?"
Carson stares at him. Then he shakes his head. "I'm surrounded by idiots," he mutters, even as he pulls Billy to his feet. "Every one of you is insane."
Billy stumbles, but Carson catches him on one side, Casey on the other.
"Still impressive," he manages to say, trying to grin.
"It would have been impressive if you'd won," Casey says.
"It would have been impressive if you'd showed any signs of self preservation," Carson says.
"Sometimes," Billy says, tripping over his own feet as they guide him forward. His consciousness is a tenuous and unforgiving thing, but there is still one thing he's certain of after this. "You can win by losing."
"Uh huh," Carson snorts with an incredulous chuckle. "Whatever you say, kid."
"Billy," someone says. "Billy!"
It seems like a cruel thing, to wake a man when he's sleeping.
It's even more cruel to wake a man when he's clearly suffering from a concussion and a myriad of other cuts, bruises and possible internal injuries.
"Billy, come on!"
Billy groans because at this point, he has no choice but to wake up. When he cracks his eyes, the sunlight is like an ice pick pounding in his skull. A single, inhaled breath brings a fresh range of aches and pains to stark acuity, most of which he can't remember receiving.
No, most of what he remembers is throwing that first punch.
And getting the bloody snot beat out of him as a consequence.
It's Rick, of course, looking down at him with those damn puppy dog eyes. He looks so young like that, worried and fretting as he is.
Billy almost feels sorry for him.
Except for the fact that Rick Martinez is also the reason he's been forced to wake up at all. "Uggh," he moans, trying to turn his head away from the light.
"Billy," Rick says again, a bit more urgently. "Give me some sort of sign-"
Billy grunts, squeezing his eyes shut. "Normally I'm happy to oblige," he mumbles, using his tongue to make sure he has all his teeth for once. "But you're a sadist, Martinez. Can't a man get some rest around here?"
Rick visibly exhales in relief. "You probably have a concussion," he says. "Your pupils were sluggish, so I wasn't sure if you had a possible skull fracture-"
Billy groans again. "And so you think that gives you the right to torture me?"
"To be fair," Rick says. "It looks like someone already did."
Turning his head back, he squints up at Rick. "A handful of somebodies," he murmurs.
"But who?" Rick says, helping Billy sit up. "You weren't even undercover. You were working with Michael's asset-"
"Who didn't take kindly to the fact that we decided to close their side operation," Billy says, swallowing hard to still the spinning in his head.
"Wait," Rick says, suddenly looking confused. "You told them that we knew about that?"
"It was bloody heroin trade," Billy says. "I know we needed them to catch a bigger fish, but the bastards were selling to children-"
"So you're the one who sold them out?" Rick says. "It's all over the news-"
"Aye," Billy says. "And all over my face, I'm sure."
"You got beaten by a friend?" Rick asks, sounding even more incredulous than before.
Billy rubs the back of his head with a wince. He glances up at Rick with a sheepish smile. "It does take a special kind of talent."
"Or stupidity," Rick says. "You didn't have to stay around for that. If you had skipped the meeting-"
"Then he would have cut town early and got away free," Billy concludes wearily, gingerly bracing himself as Rick checks his ribs. "I'm not of the habit of letting criminals, even those we count as allies, get away with bad things."
Rick sits back on his heels, shaking his head. "But it was a fight you were going to lose," he says. "It was, what, five on one?"
"Six," Billy says, cradling his sprained wrist against his torso. "But they were arrested, yeah?"
"Sure," Rick says. "Local police got them before they could get on a train-"
"See," Billy says, dabbing at blood still trickling down his cheek. "Worked like a charm."
Rick shakes his head again, brow furrowed in dismay. "But they could have killed you."
"If we hadn't been friends, I imagine they might have," Billy says.
"That's crazy," Rick says. "That's really crazy. You can't go picking fights you know you can't win."
Billy takes a breath, fighting against the tightness in his chest and the fuzziness of his vision. "Lad," he says, rallying his fleeting strength and wounded pride. "If you only fight the fights you know you can win, then that's nothing to brag about it."
Rick blinks at him.
"No," Billy says, gritting his teeth against the flaring pains as he tries to straighten a little more. "You fight the fights that matter, regardless of your odds."
Rick reaches out to steady him, helping him as he gets to his feet. "Just when I think you can't get any-"
"Braver?" Billy supplies hopefully as he staggers to his feet. "Heroic?"
Rick grunts, baring more of Billy's weight. "Stupider."
"Aye," Billy says, limping another step with Rick's help. "You may be right about that."
And One Time He Did the Beating
When there's nothing left, when Billy has no gun, no backup and no hope, he stands his ground. It's not a fight he's likely to win, but it's not one he can walk away from. Because this foe is the only thing between him and saving his team, and Billy's tried charm and excuses and lies, but there's just one thing left to try.
He balls his fists, widens his stance and inclines his head.
He'll fight for his team; he'll fight because he doesn't give up; he'll fight because it beats all the alternatives.
Narrowing his eyes, he takes a breath and throws a punch. He figures he's only going to get one chance at this, and he has to make it count.
His fist flies hard and fast and straight, hitting the man square across his upper cheek. Pain shoots through Billy's hand, reverberating up his arm, and Billy bites back a cry as his hand goes numb. His hand may very well be broken, which is going to make all the rest of this far more complicated, but the man's eyes roll up in his head and he falls to the ground. There, he lies still, unconscious and down.
And he's not getting up again.
Billy lets out a breath, shaking his hand out to regain some feeling. It was a lucky punch, and this could have gone much, much worse.
That's not the point, though. Billy stood his ground; he fought. And to be fair, Billy knows how to throw a punch.
If only because he's taken so many over the course of his life.
Win, lose or draw: Billy's fought the fights that matter. He's not sure if he's won more than he's lost, but he's won the ones that matter.
Decided, he steps over his fallen opponent and makes his way to his team.