A/N: Written for Faye, who manages to be a rock star and spoils me shamelessly, even while sleep deprived. Also, Casey's back story is pure speculation.

Disclaimer: CHAOS is owned by its creators, CBS, and its affiliates. Title comes from a song by Jars of Clay.


Casey's afraid.

Well, "afraid" might be a bit of an overstatement. After all, he has spent most of his life training his mind and body to make use of fear — not to ignore it, but rather to channel it into focus, determination, even anger if necessary. He's endured years of military training, months of living undercover amongst some of the vilest people on the earth, weeks of captivity, and days of endless torture. He's stared death in the face more times than he can count, and he's always come out on top.

So "afraid" is probably not the right word for this situation. "Averse" might be better. "Aggravated" would probably be the best fit, though Rick and Billy would most likely argue that "aggravated" is a constant state of being for Casey.

Which, Casey acknowledges, he can't really deny. That's who he is; it's as much a part of his identity as his status as a human weapon.

Though this time, he thinks even Rick and Billy would agree he has good reason for the aggravation. After all, he never expected this kind of treachery, particularly not on American soil.

"Michael, you can't let him do this to us," Rick says, voice just short of pleading.

"It's pure, unadulterated torture, is what it is," Billy agrees, eyes wide as he stares at their team leader. "Inhumane, even!"

"Not to mention utter foolishness," Casey adds with a scoff — because the entire situation is ridiculous. But it's still something he wants no part of. "He thinks he can break us, but we're better than that."

Michael's about to reply when someone clears her throat nervously behind him. They all look to see the barista behind Michael eyeing the four of them warily, a to-go container with four cups in hand. "Your order's ready," she says.

Michael flashes her his most charming smile as he takes the coffee. "They're being over dramatic," he confides in a not-whisper.

Casey scowls — if Casey has ever been over dramatic, then Billy's been conscious and quiet for longer than ten minutes — and Billy and Rick scoff loudly. "We most certainly are not," Billy exclaims indignantly.

"I mean, I like working with data, but sitting in on budgeting meetings is pushing it too far," Rick adds. He shifts his imploring gaze to the barista, shuddering visibly. "I heard last year's budget committee meetings ended up being eight hours long — all ten of them."

"No one should have to sit through such mindless drivel," Casey declares as the barista giggles at them.

Michael rolls his eyes. "Thank you," he says to the barista before turning and heading out of the small coffee shop.

The rest of his team is hot on his heels. "Seriously, Michael, is there any way to get out of this?" Rick asks, grabbing the cup of coffee Michael silently offers him.

"Surely there's no need for all of us to sit in on these horrid meetings," Billy says, grabbing one of the other cups and sipping from it. He makes a face and immediately switches it out with the one Casey just grabbed. "This coffee isn't our normal office brew — there's no call for that much sugar."

"It's my one indulgence," Casey replies easily, popping off the lid and draining half the cup as they pause at the street corner across from the pedestrian entrance to the CIA headquarters. "And I agree with Collins," he adds, looking at Michael. "We could draw straws."

Michael sips calmly at his coffee, eyes on the crossing signal. "Can't," he says. "Billy cheats."

"An unfounded accusation against my character," Billy asserts immediately. "Just because I managed to convince Blanke to pick the one to the left does not mean—"

"You're not on the committee, are you," Rick interrupts, eyeing Michael suspiciously. Billy's mouth snaps shut, and Casey scowls again as he looks at his team leader, slightly ticked that Martinez — the guy who's been on the team for less than ten months — was the one to figure it out, not the teammates who've been working together for years.

Because it's obvious now. Michael's staring at the signal, waiting for it to change, but there's no missing the tell-tale curl of a smirk at the corner of his mouth. This is practically betrayal, Casey thinks, betrayal on the highest level.

"You all told me quite emphatically yesterday that you were bored," Michael says, stepping off the curb when the light switches.

"I believe our exact words were 'in need of an assignment,'" Casey answers, keeping his voice dangerously flat as the rest of the ODS follows closely behind their team leader. It's one of his most dangerous tones — he's well-aware of this, it's been proven effective time and again, he just used it on a former KGB agent last week — but once again, Michael seems infuriatingly unaffected. "That does not translate into 'put us on Higgins' budget committee.'"

"You'll get free food," Michael informs them. "And from past experience, it's pretty decent."

"I'd rather starve," Casey deadpans. He could do it, too. He can, after all, survive without food for sixteen days — he found that out after the mission that went pear-shaped in Cameroon.

"I thought there was a lead to follow up in Laos," Rick says. "On a drug kingpin. Can't we go there? I'd rather be shot at by angry drug lords than deal with Higgins for hours on end."

"Unfortunately, our esteemed leader has a pretty high price on his head in that particular locale," Casey replies before Michael can answer. He tilts his head slightly. "I'm sure that's why we're not currently on a flight there."

Michael sips his coffee again. "It might have had some influence."

Casey's about to let Michael know just what he thinks of that decision when it happens. It's like a sixth sense, the strange feeling in his spine when something unexpected — something bad — is about to happen. It's not something he can explain, as much as his logical mind would like to; it just happens every now and then, right before everything goes to hell in a hand basket. Usually, though, it happens out in the field, where there's already a known threat, an expected attack, or at least several signs of impending danger. It's never happened here — never at home, where it should be safe, where he's not supposed to be on high alert twenty-four-seven.

Still, there's no denying the feeling — rational or not, it's not something he can ignore. It's saved his life too many times before to start ignoring now.

A quick glance around reveals nothing obviously amiss — the street is no busier than normal, traffic is flowing smoothly, and there's no one acting suspiciously. Just another typical day in the nation's capital; even the weather is cooperating, with clear skies and refreshingly crisp fall air.

Michael and Rick don't seem to have noticed anything amiss, either; they're still bantering back and forth about the budget committee meetings. In fact, they're so involved in their conversation that they haven't noticed the fact that Casey's fallen several steps behind them. Or that Billy's not even near them.

That realization makes Casey pause, and he turns, scanning the crowd for his teammate. Billy's height makes it easy to spot him above the flow of people . He's standing near the edge of the sidewalk, head tilted and eyes narrowed as he studies something down the street. The bad feeling in Casey's spine kicks up a notch — Billy's noticed something off, too, which means there's most certainly an unknown threat in the vicinity, and with this many civilians in the area, Casey doesn't want to think about the potential casualty count they could face.

Within two steps, Casey's standing next to Billy. "You think something's off, too," he says, scanning the crowd again.

Billy nods once. "That car… it's not right," he replies quietly. Casey follows his gaze to a dark green Jeep parked along the street in front of headquarters. Whoever was driving it must have been in a hurry — the front right tire is practically on the curb, and the vehicle is parked at an angle with the back end nearly out in the street. The parking meter is flashing its red expired signal, and there's a pink slip of a parking ticket fluttering under the edge of a windshield wiper. Casey doesn't spot any meter maids nearby, so it has to be at least twenty minutes old, if not older.

"What's wrong?" Michael suddenly asks as he and Rick step into place next to Casey.

"Not entirely sure," Billy replies, cutting through the crowd to get to the vehicle. Casey immediately follows him, and he doesn't have to look to know the others are coming, too.

Rick snags the parking ticket off the windshield as Casey and Michael try to peer in through the tinted windows to the interior. Billy drops down to his hands and knees to check the undercarriage. "This is from earlier this morning," Rick says. "Just after seven."

"This parking job looks like someone in a hurry, not someone who'd leave a car sitting for over an hour with an expired meter," Michael comments with a frown.

Billy suddenly curses. "I've got wires," he declares.

"Timer?" Casey asks immediately.

"Not that I can see, but there are three separate chunks of C4," Billy replies, sliding a little further under the Jeep to get a better view. "Could be the timer's attached to one of them."

"We need a perimeter," Michael orders. "Martinez, call inside, let them know we've got a situation, tell them we're clearing the sidewalk now but we'll need help diverting traffic until ATF and the bomb squad get here."

Casey's already trying to herd people away from the car, projecting as much authority and calmness as he can. "I need you all to step away in a calm and collected manner," he commands, raising his voice to be heard over the traffic. "We have a potential situation here, so for your own safety, please, step away."

Before anyone can respond, Billy's bellowing, "Two minutes on the timer!"

Someone screams as people start putting two and two together, and suddenly the sidewalk is a crush of people scrambling to get as far away from the bomb threat as possible. Luckily, the security guards from the CIA pedestrian entrance arrive to help keep the area clear once the people have escaped; it's the first time Casey can remember being thankful for their presence — usually they're worthless.

But their presence means Casey can turn the task of crowd control over to someone else, allowing him to focus on the thing that's most important — namely, the fact that one of his teammates is currently lying under a car rigged to explode in less than ninety seconds.

Michael and Rick are also hovering nearby, faces anxious as they watch Billy's legs, the only part of him currently visible. It's not an entirely unexpected look for Martinez — he's open with his emotions, especially when one of his team is in danger — but it's more than a little disconcerting to see that same look on Michael's face, because like Casey, Michael always acts as though he's in control of the situation, even when he's not.

Though Casey can't really blame him at the moment — after all, this is the last thing anyone was expecting when they decided to go for a coffee run.

"Can you disarm it?" Michael asks.

They can hear Billy muttering curse words from beneath the car. "There's a bloody Fellawi loop," he growls.

"A what loop?" Casey asks. "I've never heard of it."

"That's because it's from a Hardy Boys book," Rick replies shortly. "It's not a real wire configuration. What?" he says defensively when Casey and Michael stare at him. "I read them all when I was a kid!"

"Life imitates art," Billy says. "Because there's definitely three massive loops of wires attached to this timer, and I've got no bloody way to figure out which wire's the proper one to cut. You gents best back off a bit, yeah?"

Billy's stressed, Casey can tell; the Scot's accent is starting to sound more British, which only happens when things are getting particularly nasty. Casey's not sure why that happens, but it's usually the only way to tell when Billy's particularly worried.

"Only if you're coming with us," Michael replies. "You've got less than sixty seconds — we've got to move."

Billy's legs shift, and he inches his way back out, getting a little help from Rick and Casey. "That might be the smartest idea I've heard all day," the Scotsman says when his head emerges. He's grinning, but it's a shadow of his normal smile and it does nothing to conceal the worry on his face. "Let's get moving, yeah?"

As a group, they head for the nearest cover — the entrance to the courtyard surrounding headquarters. There's a solid wall marking the border that should be able to shield them from the blast, and they should be able to reach it in time.

They move three steps and everything disappears in a flash of light and sound. An instant later, Casey feels his feet leave the ground, and even though he's barely registered the fact that he's flying — his mind's hung up on the fact the detonator went off early, actually — his body is already moving, twisting and bracing itself for impact into the ground or the wall or whatever he happens to hit first.

And then, after the longest three seconds of his life, Casey's on the ground again, tumbling and rolling over the concrete. He feels the skin over his left cheekbone tear as his face hits the ground, and there's a sharp stabbing pain of something twisting in his knee. He rolls to a stop, and a moment later his hearing catches up with him, and he can hear screaming and sirens and flames snapping and crackling as they consume the remains of the car.

His nervous system is beginning to alert him to his various injuries, but he forces the pain aside; there are other things that take higher priority right now. Like finding out what happened to the rest of his team.

As he forces himself to a sitting position, he hears Michael coughing. "Everyone okay?"

"Define 'okay,'" Rick groans, sitting up and cradling his right arm to his chest. It's pretty clear something's broken in his forearm, judging by the unnatural bend in his jacket sleeve. "I'm in one piece, anyway."

"Well, that's something," Michael replies. "Casey?"

But Casey doesn't reply. Casey can't reply, because he's just spotted Billy.

Billy, who isn't moving.

Billy, who's lying spread eagle on the ground with a rapidly growing puddle of blood beneath him.

For what feels like an eternity, Casey can't move. All he can do is stare. Because moving would mean assessing the situation. Moving would mean figuring out why there's blood everywhere; why there was a bomb in the first place; why Billy, who's got the longest legs of them all and therefore should have been farthest away and therefore should have been safe, is the one lying on the ground.

Moving might mean finding out that it's too late.

Which is ridiculous, Casey's subconscious thinks. Because until he learns otherwise, Billy is still alive. Injured, bleeding badly, but alive, and if Casey moves now, he has a strong chance of making sure he stays that way. There's no room for hesitation — there never has been. Hesitation isn't something agents do in the field. Hesitation can get you killed. Hesitation can get other people killed.

But Casey's afraid.

Casey's really afraid. Because one of the few people he trusts in his job, with his life, with his friendship is bleeding out on American soil — where he was supposed to be safe — and it's not Casey's fault, but it still feels like failure of the worst kind.

But Casey's also got training. Training that utilizes fear, puts it into action, forces the doubts and anxiety and self-recriminations aside until an opportune moment — namely, after the threat is eliminated and all team members are safe and accounted for.

And that training is why Casey's kneeling down next to Billy before he realizes he's moved. That training is why he's able to keep a passive, calm facade as he eyes the shrapnel in Billy's leg, even as he hears Rick make a horrified noise and Michael curse under his breath.

The piece of metal is embedded in Billy's thigh. It's nearly six inches wide and at least four inches long, though it's hard to determine just how much of it is hidden inside Billy's flesh, and the only reason Billy hasn't bled out completely yet is because he's got the luck of the devil, it would seem. There's blood everywhere, which indicates a likely nick in the femoral artery, but it isn't severed completely. And that means there's still a chance to save Billy.

"He'll need a tourniquet," Michael says, kneeling down next to Casey. He glances up. "Martinez, I need you on lookout. As soon as the ambulances get here, grab a team and drag them over here. Use force, if necessary."

Rick's standing there, face pale and eyes wide as he stares at the pool of blood. Then his mouth closes and his eyes narrow in determination and he nods, jogging off.

Some part of Casey's brain registers the fact that it should have taken a lot more effort than that to get Rick to leave a wounded teammate's side, but he's got other priorities to worry about at the moment. As he whips off his thin leather belt, he glances over at Billy's face. He's more than a little surprised to see Billy staring at him through half-lidded eyes, chest jerking in short spurts as he breathes through the pain. A ghost of a smile crosses his lips. "Is this… is this a repeat of… of Marrakech?" he asks, his voice barely discernible over the sounds of the burning car and the screaming people in the street.

Casey scowls despite himself as Michael raises Billy's leg just enough to allow the belt to slide under it. "I told you to never bring that up again," Casey growls, buckling the belt tight around Billy's leg two inches above the shrapnel.

"And I seem to recall a mutual agreement to never use that mission as blackmail material," Michael adds lightly, shifting his position so he can hold Billy still as he jerks in pain from the belt and the shrapnel.

"S'not blackmail," the Scotsman groans through gritted teeth. "S' observa—" Billy's eyes suddenly widen as he tenses, staring off at some unknown sight above them. "Oh," he sighs.

And then his body goes limp and his eyes, which were bright with pain, go dull.

For a moment, neither Casey nor Michael can move. For Casey, everything fades out until the only thing he can see is Billy lying on the sidewalk and the only thing he hears is the distinct lack of Billy breathing. And he knows without checking that Billy's heart's not beating.

Because Billy's dead.

Billy's dead.

It's a thought that doesn't make any sense. Billy and dead don't belong in the same sentence. Casey's never met anyone who has embraced life as openly or warmly or completely as Billy has. Billy isn't as young as he acts sometimes, but he's younger than Casey, and he's still got a lot of horrible jokes to make, a lot of bad guys to chase. A lot of life left to live.

Billy can't die. Casey refuses to let him.

In a moment of unspoken agreement, Casey and Michael adjust Billy's limp body to a better position. Casey kneels next to Billy's chest while Michael takes up his position near Billy's head. Casey pretends not to notice how Michael closes Billy's sightless eyes, chooses to focus instead on administering the proper amount of compressions.

CPR never feels like it does in certification classes. The dummies in those classes are plastic, limbless; their chests move, clicking with each proper application of force. The force is the only thing that stays the same.

Because CPR in the field is different. Yes, it's still thirty repetitions at a pace of one hundred per minute, pausing just long enough to let Michael give two breaths before starting up again. Yes, it's still tiring, requiring a lot more force than anyone who hadn't done it before would think is required.

But CPR in the field isn't limbless plastic dummies. CPR in the field is ribs shifting beneath hands, fabric and skin moving a little with each push. CPR in the field is a still-warm body, limbs lying slack and useless, heart beating only because of the pressure being applied to it. CPR in the field is muscle fatigue, beads of sweat forming, and the determination to not stop, no matter how long it takes.

CPR in the field is Billy's blood, soaking the knees of Casey's pants. It's Billy's face, pale and expressionless and completely un-Billy-like.

It's Billy, still dead.

Casey's not sure how long they keep it up — he's not about to stop, and he knows Michael won't stop him, either. Because that's not how the ODS works — they don't give up when things get tough. They don't stop fighting, and they certainly don't leave one of their own behind, not while they can still do anything about it. And Casey's not about to give up now, not on Billy, not until he —

There's a shift beneath his hands, and for a moment he thinks it might be a rib breaking until he hears Billy suck in first one rasping breath, then another. Then he's coughing and Michael's shifting to support him, both to help him breathe and to make sure he doesn't jar the shrapnel in his leg.

And then Rick's suddenly there, face white with fear because he'd obviously seen what had happened, and there's two medics there, assessing Billy's condition, gently moving Michael out of the way so they can better help Billy, and Casey just sits there. It seems like all he can do at the moment because everything has changed so rapidly — first the sudden explosion, and then Billy bleeding, and then Billy dying, and then Billy living —

Rick's there, inches away from Casey's face, shaking his shoulder and asking something that Casey can't hear, and that's when Casey's body finally allows his mind to register the pain, and that's when his mind realizes that maybe he should have been paying more attention to that odd pain in his side, and then there's nothing. Nothing at all.

-o-

Casey's afraid.

It's one of his deepest, most well-guarded secrets, actually. He's terrified of hospitals. They've always freaked him out, and then in middle school he'd spent far too much time visiting one, watching helplessly as cancer destroyed his mother from the inside out and took his father down with her. His reputation as a human weapon is partially motivated by a strong desire to do what needs to be done without putting himself in the hospital.

It works about eighty percent of the time. He's only ever been injured badly enough to require extended hospitalization four times in the last ten years, but ever since he joined up with the ODS, his time in hospitals has steadily increased. Even when they're working their hardest to avoid life-threatening situations, trouble has a way of following them around.

For the most part, Casey doesn't mind the danger. He relishes a good fight, particularly when it means he's putting a dangerous threat behind bars or in the ground. He's trained for decades, mastering eight forms of martial arts and obtaining a significant knowledge of four others, all in an effort to make himself better, to be a better asset to his team, to do what he can to make the world a little safer, even if only a handful of people will ever know about it.

But even though he's spent years learning how to protect himself and keep himself safe during an attack, it's only recently that he's really begun employing those skills to protect the life and safety of the rest of his team. Yes, he's always done what he could to ensure his teammates made it out of a mission alive, but it was never as high a priority as completing the mission and protecting his own life. No one had ever thought to tell him to act otherwise, because everyone he had ever worked with had been thinking the same thing.

And then he'd joined the ODS, and his worldview shifted.

Because for the ODS, missions were more than just finishing the job assigned and making it back alive. Missions were about doing what was needed to make sure the job got done andgetting everyone else on the team back alive, even if it was at the cost of your own safety, even your own life.

It hadn't taken long for Casey to see that in action. On the very first mission with his new team, Michael had blocked a vicious roundhouse kick meant for Billy and suffered three broken ribs for it. Billy had been as mad as hell, but it had hardly phased Michael; he'd refused to even get medical attention until the mission was done and everyone else had been checked out.

That kind of loyalty had surprised Casey. He'd been wary of it, wondering if Dorset had some kind of ulterior motive up his sleeve, but by the third mission, it was clear the rest of the ODS were willing to do the same if the need arose. Not only that, but they were willing to do the same for Casey, who'd made minimal attempt to bond with them.

After that, it was easier than Casey would ever admit to start doing the same — to start thinking about the ramifications of his actions for more than just his own life, to analyze if what he was doing would ensure the safety of the rest of his team.

That also meant he started showing up at hospitals more and more. On previous teams, he would only stay at the hospital long enough to find out if an injured associate was going to pull through or not; he might show up once or twice to check in and see a downed colleague, but he never made a point to stay longer than necessary. He couldn't — his nosocomephobia, though well-controlled, meant that time in a hospital made him nervous, anxious, even panicky at moments.

And then he'd joined the ODS and started protecting his teammates, which meant he started caring for his teammates. Which meant he started staying longer and longer in the hospitals, even when he himself wasn't injured. He'd never once revealed his phobia to anyone, though he suspected that Michael had caught onto it after awhile — he'd always made a special point to be there those few times when Casey woke up dazed and disoriented in a hospital bed, and if there was an option available, he always made sure Casey had the largest, most non-hospital looking room.

Casey wondered if that was what he would find this time around. Because he knew without having to open his eyes that he was in the hospital. Even if he couldn't smell the antiseptic, hear the steady beat of a heart monitor, or feel the slight pressure of a Pulse Ox monitor on his finger, he'd be able to tell simply by the feel of the mattress and sheets alone. He had yet to be in a hospital with a comfortable mattress and soft, non-starched sheets.

Of course, nine times out of ten, he wasn't the one waking up in a hospital bed these days. Sometimes it was Michael, who made little fuss about his circumstances; once in a while it was Rick, who always looked confused at his location and even more confused that his teammates were there keeping watch. But more often than not it was Billy, who'd wake up and complain about scratchy sheets and mattresses that were ruining his spinal alignment and the constant barrage of noise—

Billy, lying in a pool of blood, Casey remembers. Billy, head jerking a little with each chest compression.

Billy, dead, sightless eyes pointed up at the sky.

Casey's eyes shoot open, and he's moving, trying to get off the bed even before he's aware of what he's doing. Because Billy was hurt in the explosion, Billy was dead, and Casey has to find him, to help him, to make sure the Scot is still around to annoy him with inane chatter and intentionally off-key singing for another couple decades at least.

There are hands on his shoulders, firm yet gentle, pushing him back down toward the mattress, and it's only then that Casey registers Michael's face above him. "You need to calm down, Casey, or they're going to put you under again," Michael warns, voice gentle and face tired.

Casey feels a dull throb in his side, registers it, and then promptly ignores it. "Billy—"

"—Is fine. Martinez is sitting with him," Michael replies, keeping a firm grip on Casey's shoulders until he relaxes back into the bed.

Casey blinks a few times as Michael settles back in his chair. He's moving stiffly — probably the aftereffects of being tossed around by a bomb, Casey decides — and he's wearing the jeans and t-shirt he keeps in his overnight bag that stays at the office for emergencies. Judging by the thin layer of stubble on his face, Casey figures he's been out for a day, maybe a little longer.

Then he realizes he doesn't know how he got from the sidewalk outside Langley to a hospital bed with a side that aches as if he's been stabbed. "What happened?"

"In addition to tearing up half your face and your ACL, you had a piece of shrapnel in your side you failed to tell us about," Michael replies, one eyebrow lifting slightly.

Casey lifts his own eyebrow, lightly probing at the area beneath the papery gown. He can feel a wad of bandages. "Huh."

Michael folds his arms. "I take it you didn't know."

"I had other priorities at the time," Casey replies shortly. "How's Billy?"

"Fine," Michael says. When Casey looks at him skeptically, Michael tilts his head to the left. "He needed around a hundred stitches in his leg and three transfusions, but the infection so far has been minimal. He hasn't woken up yet, but the doctors are pretty optimistic that he'll come around in the next day or two."

That sounds good. That sounds really good, actually, but it doesn't compute with the memory of Billy lying sprawled and dead in a pool of blood. "I need to see him."

"You will," Michael affirms. "But not right now."

"I'm fine," Casey insists. "I'm awake and I'm fine, and I'll take a damn wheelchair if I have to, but I need to see him."

Michael's gaze is knowing, sympathetic. Casey would really rather not see it there — it's a sign of his own weakness, his own needs, things he doesn't like to show, let alone have acknowledged — but at this point it doesn't matter. He trusts Michael, probably more than anyone else on the planet, but this is something he needs. And he's not one to express feeling, but those awful moments in the aftermath of the explosion are still emblazoned in his brain. He'll wear his emotions on his sleeve if he has to, as long has he can confirm that the sight of Billy dead on the sidewalk isn't the last time he'll see Billy alive.

He licks his lips, hesitating for a moment. But only for a moment, because this is important, more important than his pride or his reputation. "Please, Michael."

Michael smiles a little, sadly, as he glances at his watch. "I promise, Casey, next time you wake up. But your morphine drip just released its regular dose, so you won't be awake enough now, anyway."

Casey's forehead furrows in confusion. "What?" he asks, and then a strange warmth spreads through the arm with the IV, and a moment later he's out.

-o-

Casey's mad.

Truthfully he's mad even before he regains full consciousness again. That's another thing about hospitals he hates — the fact that they can make him so vulnerable with drugs, the fact that he can fall asleep at the drop of a hat even if he doesn't want to. He always feels disoriented and off when he wakes up on medication, and this time is no different.

It helps that Rick is there, if only because the rookie is in even worse shape than Michael — his cheek, too, was shredded on the concrete, and the skin that isn't torn on his face is black and blue and covered in road rash.

There's also the sling immobilizing Rick's arm against his chest. It's one of the heavy duty ones, with significant padding and extra straps, and what little Casey can see of Rick's hand is wrapped in soft bandages, which is a strong indication of severe swelling or a surgical incision that needs to be looked at every so often, or possibly both.

In all, it's enough to make Casey reign in his ire a little— which is probably why Michael had Rick sit in here, now that he thinks about it. Tricky bastard.

"You look like hell," Casey says bluntly, because reigning in his ire doesn't automatically make him a nice person.

Rick grins a little, despite himself. "Pot, kettle," he says, waving his free hand between them before setting it back on the handle of the wheelchair Casey just now notices. "And if you want to bust out of here to go see Billy, you'd better be a little nicer."

Casey raises an eyebrow. "He's awake."

"Should be soon," Rick replies with a one-shoulder shrug, grin widening even further. "He's been muttering in Welsh for the last hour or so, which is usually a good sign." He gestures at Casey's IV stand as he presses the call button. "The doctors have already agreed to let you go, as long as you promise to stay in the wheelchair and take the IV with you."

"How'd you finagle that?" Casey asks.

"It was all Michael's doing," Rick says. "I think he told Higgins that if he pulled out all the stops on this hospital stay, Michael would agree to sit in on the budget meetings instead of all of us."

"And that worked?"

Rick nods. "Apparently Higgins was as excited to have us on the committee as we were to be on it."

A doctor walks in at that moment, and the thread of conversation is lost as Casey reluctantly submits to the standard post-awakening routine, answering every question with one word and enduring the pain of testing his damaged leg's range of motion without a sound, lest he get another round of morphine.

Either his complacency pays off or the doctor senses she'll be attacked with her own stethoscope if she makes Casey wait any longer, because in just a few minutes he's transferred over to the wheelchair and being pushed down the hall by a nurse, Rick trailing along behind with Casey's IV. Rick and the nurse are making small talk, but Casey doesn't join in because he's too busy thinking — thinking about Billy on the sidewalk; about all those times he's walked in to a hospital room only to find that someone he cares for has wasted away even more since the last visit; about the ever-present possibility that even if Billy wakes up he might not be Billy.

His worries prove pointless because as they make a turn in the hallway, Casey can hear Michael talking softly but calmly and Billy making short replies.

"Speak of the devils," the Scotsman rasps as they enter the room. He's still pale and looks like he's barely awake, but he manages to grin nonetheless. "The last half of our wayward team approaches."

His bed's been propped up, and Michael's sitting nearby, a cup of ice chips and a spoon in hand. In a twist of irony — or in classic Billy Collins luck — Billy looks the least beat up out of all of them; he's only got a handful of scratches on his face and a few colorful bruises on his forearms. His wounded leg is propped up a little, and even as Casey eyes it, Billy's wiggling his foot.

It's very much the opposite of Billy staring blankly at the sky as his blood stained the knees of Casey's pants. Casey feels his shoulders relax at the sight.

"I'll be back in thirty minutes," the nurse says as he positions Casey near the foot of Billy's bed and locks the wheels in place. He slips out of the room a moment later.

Rick eases himself down into the empty chair across from Michael, a wide grin on his face. "Glad to have you back with us," he says fervently, leaning over to pat Billy's forearm with his uninjured hand.

Billy grins. "Glad to see you're in one piece as well, even if a bit beat up."

Rick shrugs a shoulder. "I've had worse. They didn't even have to put pins in," he says, gesturing at his broken arm.

"Which means we can still get you through a metal detector without incident," Billy replies with a wise nod. His gaze shifts over to Casey. "I see you're also still with us, though a bit worse for wear."

Casey lifts an eyebrow. "I'm fine — I'm not the one who needed CPR, after all."

Billy purses his lips, rubbing at his chest absently. "Yes, well… thank you for providing that grim service. I know it isn't an easy or a pleasant task."

"We weren't about to let a car bomb take you out," Michael says firmly before an awkward silence can take over the room.

"Especially not when your last words were about Marrakech," Casey adds with a glare. "No one should be thinking about that, particularly not when they're bleeding out on a sidewalk in front of Langley."

Billy has the decency to look a little sheepish. "Not my finest moment, I'll admit," he says. "A man of my wide literary and musical tastes should certainly end things on a better note than that."

Rick looks confused — and, if Casey isn't mistaken, just a little upset that they're referring to cases he doesn't know about again. Knowing Rick, he probably is upset. But even if Casey were one to reassure his teammates, Casey would let this one slide — at the rate they've been working since Martinez came on board, they'll be making references to a wide variety of missions that all four of them participated in within six months. Maybe eight, factoring in Billy's recovery time.

"What happened in Marrakech?" Rick asks, eyes shifting to look at each of them.

Casey and Michael scowl as Billy grins widely. "That, lad, is a story that needs to be told—"

"—Never again," Michael interjects before Billy can finish.

"—Over my dead body," Casey adds with a firm nod.

"—At a bar over drinks far away from these two," Billy finishes, never taking his eyes off Rick. "It is one of the great unspeakable missions of the ODS, and you would do well to learn from our mistakes."

Rick laughs as Michael crosses his arms. "And you would do well to remember that your leg will be far from recovered for at least six weeks and that I know exactly where you live, Collins," he declares, though the amused twinkle in his eye negates the stern set of his shoulders and his commanding tone of voice.

"Now you're just being cruel," Rick complains. "Can't I at least get a hint?"

"Trust me," Billy says, tapping his nose with his finger. "This is a story that needs at least an hour to explain to a satisfying and entertaining level." His grin widens when Michael and Casey scoff, and he leans in a little closer to Rick. "But if you must know, it involves a Doberman, a stolen necklace, an unfortunate encounter with local law enforcement, and a lovely lady named Bernard."

And Casey should be afraid at this point — not because of the fact that he's in a hospital, but because Rick is laughing again and Billy is dropping even more hints at the tale with an unholy glee and Michael looks like he's about two seconds away from laughing himself and Casey knows for a fact that he's the butt of the joke in this story.

But at this point, Casey can't be afraid. It would be a useless waste of energy, yes, but more importantly, there's no reason to be. Yes, he's in a hospital again, but his team is here, Billy is alive, not in a body bag in a morgue, and though they're all a little worse for wear, they'll live to fight another day.

They'll live. And that, Casey decides as he watches his friends, is more than enough to keep the fears at bay.

End.