Title: Not in the Stars

Author: sockie1000

Word count: 1,100ish

Summary: Billy finds Michael after Fay leaves him. Drinking and bonding ensues.

Author's notes: Like most people who read or write Chaos stories, I need to thank/blame Faye Dartmouth. Because it really is her fault. All of it. (Ok, Lena7142 might share a small part of the blame as well.) ;)

Thanks to my beta, Cokie316, who will read anything I put in front of her, even if she doesn't have a clue who the characters are. She is that awesome.

And I must confess, I've never actually seen the show. So if anything is off, please forgive me. It was not intentional.

Billy saw Michael the second he walked in the door.

His tie was loose, his shirt sleeves rolled up, and he was well on his way to being drunk, but Michael was still a consummate operative. His body was positioned at the bar so he could see the door in the mirror and the rest of the establishment in his peripheral vision. From this vantage point, he could see everything— the drunken guy hanging on his girlfriend in the corner, the young punk who was hustling pool and would soon learn his lesson, and the bartender who was feigning interest in the problems of his patrons but only really cared about getting tips and going home. In short, Michael could see everything.

Including Billy.

Billy pretended not to notice when Michael looked down at his drink and scowled. Instead, he made his way over to the bar and sat on the vacant stool beside him. The bartender approached and Billy ordered a scotch, which was placed in front of him on a generic white cocktail napkin before Michael sighed heavily and spoke.

"So, how did you find me?

Billy grinned affably. "I hate to tell you this, mate, but your Taurus sticks out a bit in the car park."

Michael looked up but stared straight ahead, clearly displeased. "That's not what I meant and you know it. I've never been to this bar before. So again, how did you find me?"

"A good spy never reveals his secrets. You know that." Billy waved his hand around in the air, encompassing their surroundings, still smiling. "And I must say you picked a bar that has a very interesting local flavor. How long do you think it will be before the blokes at the pool table get wise to being hustled?"

Michael ignored Billy's obvious attempt at redirection and worked his jaw for a few seconds, thinking. "I know you didn't follow me here. I would have seen you." Michael stopped and cocked head, looking at Billy with hard eyes. "You ran my credit card, didn't you?"

Billy raised his scotch up to his lips and took a sip.

"You had no right," Michael admonished, angrily.

Billy set his glass back down. "Since when have personal rights had a place in the ODS? Besides," he shrugged, "I thought I might be able to help."

Michael turned away and looked back down. "I didn't ask for help," he replied before taking drink, grimacing from the burn as the alcohol went down.

"On the contrary," Billy responded, "you picked me up five minutes late this morning. And then you didn't even lecture me when strawberry jam squirted out of my donut onto the car seat. If that isn't a Michael Dorset cry for help, I'm afraid I don't know what is."

Michael snorted. "Since when do you pay attention to the time? You're always late."

"Just because a free spirit such as myself cannot be constrained within the confines of time does not mean I am oblivious to its passing. And you, my friend," Billy said, pointedly, "are changing the subject."

Michael sighed heavily. "I'm fine."

"Thou dost protest too much, methinks."

Michael quirked an eyebrow and looked at Billy, challenge evident on his face. "Meaning?"

Billy didn't back down. "Meaning if you were as dead set against company as you proclaim, you wouldn't have registered at a hotel under your real name and then picked a bar that was only two blocks away."

Michael scowled and looked back down at his drink. "If you know I'm at a hotel, then you must also know why."

Billy shrugged. "I can surmise, but I do not know for certain."

"Well then, let me clear things up," Michael replied, bitterly. "Fay left me. Although, I guess technically, she kicked me out." He drained the rest of his drink and held the empty glass up, shaking it to gain the attention of the bartender.

Billy remained silent, even after the bartender refilled Michael's drink and moved back to the far end of the bar.

"What?" Michael asked, his voice a combination of surprise and sarcasm. "No obscure Shakespeare quotes? No witty comebacks? No 'it's better to have loved and lost'? Or 'time heals all wounds'?"

"I find at times like this, platitudes are quite meaningless," Billy replied, almost sorrowfully. "Especially when they are patently false."

Michael looked up, surprised by the raw honesty in Billy's voice. Billy avoided his gaze, and for a split second, Michael could see a hint of the pain Billy so skillfully hid. Sometimes it was easy to forget that Billy, with all of his jokes and stories and happy nonsense, was just as well versed in rejection as Michael. Actually, he was more.

After a few moments, Michael's demeanor softened. "So, what's your advice?"

Billy's usual buoyant smile returned, so quickly that Michael would have thought he imagined the whole thing if he didn't know better.

Billy held up his scotch. "Tonight, we drink. We drown our sorrows in a sea of libation. And tomorrow, we begin planning how to win back the fair and lovely Fay."

Michael saluted with his glass and they each drained the rest of their drinks. Then he set his empty tumbler down. "You make is sound so easy."

"It is easy," Billy replied and then elbowed Michael in the ribs. "You're Michael Dorset after all. If anyone can do this, it's you."

Michael scoffed. "You seem to have forgotten that being Michael Dorset is what got me into this mess in the first place."

"Aye," Billy nodded, "but it is also what will get you out. It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves." He pointed his finger at Michael and poked him lightly on the chest. "The Michael Dorset that Fay knows and loves is still in there. And the one I know who never gives up is in there as well. You just need to acquaint the two again."

Michael stared at his empty glass for a few moments, thinking. Then he looked up and nodded before motioning to the bartender, who quickly came over.

"Another round?" the bartender asked.

"Actually," Michael replied, "we'll take two coffees."

The bartender nodded before disappearing into the kitchen.

Michael looked over at a surprised, but smiling, Billy. Michael shrugged, then a hint of a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he explained.

"Why wait until tomorrow?"