Title: A Perfect 10
Word Count: 5200-ish
Characters: Billy and Casey with guest appearances by Michael and Rick
Genre: Hurt/comfort, drama, humor, friendship- take your pick
Summary: But Casey really wished Billy would shut up when talking was clearly a detriment to his ongoing safety and likely survival. And right now was one of those times.
Because they were in the Romanian countryside and Billy was bound to a chair, getting the crap beat out of him, and he simply Would. Not. Shut. Up.
Author's notes: First, I have to thank Faye Dartmouth, who listened to my hair-brained idea and provided not only a (somewhat) plausible setting, but she also provided the title and the beta. Needless to say, this story would not have been written without her.
Thanks also to Cokie316, who also beta'd this story but wants a H50 fic in exchange. And since I've now dragged her through both Person of Interest and Chaos (with only mild to moderate kicking and screaming on her part, not mine), her request only seems fair. So it looks like Steve and Danny are back on the docket next.
Oh, and for those of you who don't know, I tinker with stories even after they've been beta'd. It's a sickness, really. I should probably seek professional help. So if there are any typos or mistakes, rest assured they were due to my inability to leave the story alone and are entirely my fault.
Sometimes Casey wished Billy would just shut up.
Ok, a lot of times Casey wished Billy would just shut up.
He wished it when they were on stake-outs and Billy would recite every Shakespearean sonnet he knew (and Casey was convinced he knew them all. He was also somewhat convinced that Billy had made quite a few of them up, just to annoy him, but it was hard to tell with all that iambic pentameter flying around.)
He wished it when they were on a plane and Billy insisted on not only reviewing the escape procedures pamphlet—out loud- but also on reenacting the flight attendant's movements, rather enthusiastically, and assuring Casey that he needn't worry—if the pressure suddenly dropped in the cabin, Billy would put his mask on first and then assist Casey. Which was just another reason for Casey to hate flying commercial. And for him to turn around and glare pointedly at Michael, who somehow usually managed to sit next to Rick while trying, rather unsuccessfully, to hide his smug smile behind a germ-infested, dog-eared copy of Sky Mall.
And he wished it when Billy would debate, point by point, who was a better spy—James Bond or Jason Bourne. At least that discussion was interesting. Well, it was the first time, for the first two hours. Then Casey decided to stop listening because he realized that no matter what, Billy would ultimately always come down on the side of Bond and Casey suspiciously felt the decision had more to do with Bond's accent than his actual skills. (Although, even Casey had to admit the Daniel Craig version of James Bond was "reasonably capable".)
But Casey really wished Billy would shut up when talking was clearly a detriment to his ongoing safety and likely survival. And right now was one of those times.
Because they were in the Romanian countryside and Billy was bound to a chair, getting the crap beat out of him, and he simply Would. Not. Shut. Up.
That was not part of the plan. But being captured and beaten rarely was.
The plan was actually quite simple, really.
The CIA began hearing chatter about a new outpost of terrorism funding arising in Romania. The bean counters at Langley had narrowed possible business fronts down to a small list and the ODS had been sent to check them out. They would gather intelligence and report back. Nothing more. After all, Romania was a member of NATO and the EU and the actions of a few rogue terrorists did not indicate the direction of the country. And the last thing the CIA wanted was an international incident with an ally.
But as he gazed across the gym at a beaten and bloody Billy, an international incident was exactly what Casey was looking at.
"So which one do you want? The athletic training center or the restaurant?" Michael asked, holding out the files to Casey and Billy in their hotel room earlier that day.
Casey eyed the files suspiciously. "What type of food does the restaurant serve?"
"Hungarian," Michael replied, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"We'll take the training center," Casey replied hastily, taking the file Michael's outstretched hand.
Billy grinned and wrapped his arm around Casey's shoulder, shaking him good-naturedly. "I see you still haven't recovered from that goulash incident two years ago, have you?"
"What goulash incident?" Rick piped up with a smile. He might not have been a spy long, but he had good instincts and could sense a story.
Casey scowled. "There was no incident. I got food poisoning. End of story."
"No, that's not the end of the story," Billy corrected, clearly enjoying himself. "You see, it wasn't food poisoning because Michael and I were just fine. I've given it a lot of thought and I think our friend Casey here is sensitive to paprika. And to think, our position was almost compromised and two months of work would have been lost all because of a heavy-handed chef."
"I am not sensitive to paprika and everything turned out fine," Casey replied shortly, as he glared at Billy's arm, which was still around his shoulder. "And if you don't remove your arm right now, I'll break it."
Billy mouthed "paprika" and winked at Rick, who started to laugh but wisely covered it as a cough after Casey turned a piercing look his way. But Billy also did the smart thing and dropped his arm and nodded. "So the training center it is."
"You have a problem with that?" Casey asked as he opened the file and began studying its contents.
"Me? Not at all. I'd far rather spend my time in a venue frequented by bulky and pungently aromatic men than go to a restaurant for a comforting bowl of sustenance served by a beautiful lady."
"You mean a terrorist," Casey corrected, meaning the word in more ways than one.
"Just remember," Michael interjected, "if we do it right, we won't run into anyone at all. Nobody will even know we were there."
And they had done it right.
They surveilled the training facility for several hours from their car on a hill, finding it exactly as their Intel had described. A large building containing a training gym and offices sat in the middle of a compound and littered behind it were several outer buildings, which, in better days, had housed the athletes. The location was fairly remote- it was at least 20 miles into the countryside on a seldom used road. But that also helped its cover and cut down the odds of someone noting the place was generating large sums of money without any corresponding activity. And while the compound didn't look quite deserted, it did have a definite air of neglect.
Nobody had entered or exited the facility while they watched, but they decided to wait another hour until dusk, just to be sure.
"And that's why James Bond will always be better," Billy concluded with a look of triumph. Casey rolled his eyes. He had tuned Billy out the second he started.
"Are you ready to go in?" Casey asked as he pulled out and checked his gun, thankful that dusk had come if for no other reason than to stop Billy's endless prattle.
"Aye," Billy nodded, pulling out his gun and doing the same. "Shall we start with the gym?"
They moved silently down the hill, leaving the car hidden in its spot behind some brush, and pulled themselves tightly against the back door of the main building. Billy quickly picked the lock while Casey kept a lookout and then they were inside.
The door opened into the main part of the building, which was a gym equipped with a boxing ring and punching bags on one side and true gymnastic equipment, including balance beams, vaults, and various types of bars, on the other. Dilapidated bleachers surrounded the sides. They quickly cleared the gym area as well as the attached offices before exiting and clearing the outlying living quarters.
The place was indeed empty.
Normally, they would not have split-up. But since time was of the essence and the mission was classified as fairly low-risk (or as low-risk as things in the ODS ever were), they did.
Billy headed back to search the offices attached to the gym while Casey began looking in the first living quarter and worked his way back. It was a good thirty minutes before Casey concluded the quarters held nothing of interest or value as intelligence and made his way back to the gym to check in with Billy.
Casey heard Billy before he even made it to the door.
Which didn't make sense. They were on a mission. There was no reason he would be talking that loudly, and to himself.
Unless he was trying to warn Casey.
Casey drew his gun and ran in a crouch the final few feet to the back of the building. He silently slid down the length of the building until he pulled to a stop beside a filthy window. His suspicions were confirmed the second he glanced inside.
They were no longer alone.
Billy hadn't heard them arrive.
He was rifling through his third desk cabinet when he found what he was looking for. A false bottom gave way and revealed a tattered, white three-ring binder. Billy quickly opened it and smiled as he looked at the bank statements which would provide enough evidence to not only dry-up the terrorist's money supply but also to place them in jail.
He was about to go find Casey when the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. Billy quickly closed the binder and shoved it into his satchel, which he wore angled across his body. In two strides, he crossed the room and pressed himself up against the side of the wall by the window, looking outside the front of the building. He didn't see anything out of the ordinary and there we no vehicles in sight. If anyone had arrived, they must have done so by foot. Which, this far out in the country, was unlikely but not impossible.
But still, Billy he couldn't shake the feeling that he was no longer alone.
The audible click of a gun from the doorway behind him told Billy he was right.
Billy woke up duct-taped to a chair in the middle of the gym. His gun and satchel had been stripped from him and were lying on the second riser of the bleachers, well out of his range, and three rather burly-looking men had their guns trained on him.
Billy wasn't sure exactly what had happened but the throbbing pain at the side of his skull was a pretty good indicator he'd been pistol whipped.
He also wasn't sure exactly how much time had passed, but considering the angle of the sunlight streaming through the windows, the sun was about to set. Therefore, he couldn't have been out more than a few minutes. And since Casey wasn't bound in the gym with him, he was probably still clearing the living quarters. Which meant there was still a chance for both of them to get out of there, alive and with the Intel.
But only if Billy could warn Casey.
It was time to start talking.
Casey pressed himself back up against the building, out of sight from the window. He had to suppress the urge to run to the back door, fling it open, and start firing. But he knew that was not an option for several reasons.
For one, Billy was positioned between the door and the captors. Casey wasn't too worried about shooting Billy by accident—after all, his aim was impeccably good- but he was concerned that one of the terrorists would use Billy's body as a shield. He would need to relocate to the front door to keep Billy out of the line of fire.
And secondly, the sun was still up. Opening the door even the slightest amount would throw sunlight into the gym, alerting the terrorists to his presence before he even got the door opened all the way. And if that happened, the odds were good that he would also be captured and possibly get both of them killed, neither of which was an appealing option.
No, Casey would have to bide his time and wait a few more minutes for the sun to go down.
But that didn't mean he had to be idle.
He quickly, but thoroughly, swept the grounds of the compound once again, ensuring that only the three men inside had returned. He spotted their vehicle, a van, parked about a mile down the road behind an empty barn. If it were closer, he would have disabled it. But when the time came, he'd either have to fully incapacitate the men or at least make sure he and Billy outran them to their car. And given a choice, he would go with the former.
With nothing else to do, Casey moved to the front door to listen and wait.
"Well, obviously you've put your time here to good use," Billy commented after he could finally breathe following a hard hit to his gut. "I can both see and feel the results of your work with the punching bag. And I would applaud your efforts if they were not extended in my direction."
The captor who was beating Billy did not smile. Nor did the other two men who still had their guns drawn but had relaxed their posture somewhat. Instead, he asked a question in Romanian.
"You know," Billy replied, conversationally, "I knew I should have ordered Rosetta Stone. They always advertise on TV, but I thought it was too good to be true. Who would believe you could actually learn a foreign tongue simply by listening to some CDs? But I can see my folly now and, given a proper chance, I will not make the same mistake in the future."
The three men glanced at each other and frowned.
Eventually, the puncher asked "who are you?" in thickly accented English.
"Ah, English!" Billy exclaimed with a bright smile. "Now we're finally getting somewhere!"
Billy only hoped Casey was doing the same.
Casey had to wait a few agonizing minutes for the sun to completely set so he could open the front door without giving away his presence. The second the sun slipped behind the horizon, he cracked the door open, just a sliver, and peered inside.
Billy was still bound and surrounded by his captors. That was the bad news.
The good news was that each of the men had their backs to the front door and therefore, to Casey, which allowed him to slip inside silently and make his way, undetected, to a hiding spot beneath the bleachers.
Now with a clear line of sight to Billy, Casey could make out Billy's face as it bobbed up and down, still reeling a bit from his captor's last punch. And what he saw turned his stomach.
Billy's left eye was swollen shut and he was bleeding profusely from several cuts to his face and neck. However, even more concerning was Billy's posture. He was visibly listing to his right side. But at least Billy was still conscious, giving Casey a few quick moments to formulate his plan.
Waiting for help was out of the question. Casey knew Michael and Rick would come looking for them when they missed their scheduled rendezvous in an hour. But that really didn't matter. Even if Michael and Rick were five minutes away, that was five minutes too long as far as Casey was concerned. Especially when Billy was literally being beaten to a pulp.
Not to mention waiting would equate to leading Michael and Rick into a trap and that was just as unacceptable to him as letting Billy get beat-up even more.
He would have to act sooner rather than later.
And Casey was on his own.
"I can see why you'd still be angry about the defection," Billy said, his head still visibly unsteady. "After all, your program never recovered. And a lot of people think Bela is the one… but I tell you, it's Marta who is the true brains of the Karolyi machine."
Billy was rewarded with a particularly vicious hit to the jaw and his vision swam. He blinked hard, once, then twice, and tried not to see the thick blood dripping from his mouth onto the dark crimson stain soaking through his pants. And he definitely tried to avoid looking at the ever-increasing puddle of blood on the floor. So if he couldn't look down, then he had to look up.
Billy slowly raised his head and looked over at the balance beam and decided maybe gymnastics wasn't the best conversation to have. So he looked the other way and saw the ring. Boxing it was.
"However," Billy slurred, "your country never was any good at boxing, so there's no big loss there."
And after the next punch, Billy didn't see anything.
Now that the sun had set, the light in the run-down gym was dim, with half of the wire-encased lights burned out. Dust swirled listlessly in the air that was punctuated with the coppery smell of blood. Billy's blood.
Which made Casey angry. Very angry.
Granted, some of his anger was directed at Billy who still would not shut up, but Casey was willing to give him a pass. After all, Billy was just trying to warn him by talking and probably had no idea that Casey was already inside the building.
But most of Casey's anger was reserved for the three men holding Billy, particularly the one who had apparently just knocked Billy out.
But anger was good. Casey could use anger. Casey would use anger.
And suddenly, simply shooting the men was not enough.
Casey wanted something more visceral. Something more fitting. He wanted to connect, bone to bone and tissue to tissue. He wanted to inflict some sort of punishment on Billy's captors that would be more equal to their crimes. And a bullet was simply too easy.
So Casey put away his gun.
Then he stepped out from behind the bleachers and moved into position.
Billy was dreaming.
He knew he was dreaming. Although, he didn't remember dreams hurting quite this much.
But there was no other rational explanation.
How else could he explain seeing Casey leap from the bleachers and soar through the air onto the parallel bars, knocking one of his captors out in the process?
How else could he explain the fluidity and finesse exhibited when Casey swung up into a handstand, then stuck the dismount and laid both of the other men out cold with brutal efficiency in a mere matter of seconds?
Casey was a human weapon—Billy had always known that. But Casey's movements were usually concise, targeted, and economic. He never used two moves when one would do. And certainly no one would ever accuse Casey of being graceful. But right now, after watching Casey's performance, for lack of a better word, graceful was the only word that came to mind.
Yes, Billy was dreaming. He imagined it all. His mind had been battered long enough that he was making things up. That was all there was to it. There was no other explanation. It was all in his head.
Until it wasn't.
He heard Casey calling his name from a distance and the next thing he knew, the tape had been cut away, freeing him from the chair. Then Casey was crouched in front of him, trying to get his attention.
"Collins! Can you hear me?" Casey asked- demanded, really. And Billy was fairly certain it wasn't the first time he'd said it.
But this was a dream, right?
Billy's brain struggled to keep up. He furrowed his brow and looked at Casey through his one open eye. "Casey?"
Casey visibly relaxed a bit, having gotten a response. "Yeah. It's me."
"Casey…" Billy paused, afraid to voice his thoughts for fear of sounding crazy. "… you're a … gymnast?"
Casey snorted, then reached out and helped Billy stand. "No, I'm not a gymnast."
"But… I saw you. On the bars…" Billy glanced over his shoulder and noticed all three captors were out cold, face down, and hog-tied with duct tape.
Casey's scowl deepened. "Then you were hallucinating."
Billy looked confused. "When did you tie them up?"
"While you were out of it. And if it's all the same to you, I'd rather stop playing 20 questions and get out of here. Did you find the Intel?"
Billy thought for a moment, then nodded slowly. "It's in my satchel."
Casey made sure Billy was steady on his feet before he walked over and grabbed the bag, along with Billy's gun. Then he took Billy by the arm and led him out of the building and into the moonlight.
The walk back to the car wasn't as easy as Casey would have liked. But Billy was awake, if not always alert, and with the beating Billy had taken to the head, right now that was all Casey could really ask for.
After loading Billy into the passenger seat, Casey slipped behind the wheel and put a call in to Michael as he drove away. A few minutes later, everything was settled. Michael had been briefed and would put a call in to Fay, who would pull some magical strings and get the local police to pick up the terrorists for some crime that did not include taking hostage and beating up a CIA agent who had never been there in the first place.
Relieved, Casey disconnected the call and looked over at Billy, who was slumped against the door, his eyes closed.
Billy didn't respond.
"Billy," Casey called again, this time as he reached over and shook the Scot.
Billy stirred and opened his eyes as best as he could. "Hmmm?"
"You need to stay awake."
"'m tired," Billy said wearily, and closed his eyes again.
"I know, but you can't go to sleep." Casey couldn't believe he was about to say what he was, but he really had no choice. "Why don't you recite a sonnet?"
There was no response.
"Billy." Casey shook him again and was rewarded by a slight groan. "You need to talk to stay awake."
"'m too tired t' talk."
Casey sighed. If Billy was too tired to talk, then Casey was going to have to do the talking for him. And although he didn't relish the idea, Billy had possibly just saved his life by talking. It was only fair Casey returned the favor.
"Can you stay awake if you just listen?" Casey asked.
Billy shifted slightly. "mm… hmm. If the story's good."
Casey scowled as he looked out over the steering wheel. He highly doubted a lesson on the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu would keep Billy enthralled and awake all the way back to town.
No, Billy wanted a story. And a good one at that. It was almost enough to make Casey want to drive him back to the compound and throw him out of the car.
But not quite.
So instead, Casey took a deep breath and started talking.
Billy felt much better when he woke up in the hospital the next day. His cuts had been stitched and his tender ribs wrapped. His aches had subsided to a tolerable level, which Michael attributed to a good supply of IV drugs as opposed to a miraculous healing.
"You're lucky you didn't sustain more serious injuries," Michael told him. "The doctor said it is amazing you only have a concussion, a few cracked ribs, and some bruising. But you're going to have to take it easy for a while."
Billy set down his glass of water on the bedside tray next to his untouched lunch. "How long?"
Michael shrugged. "A couple of weeks, at least. The doctor said we'd just have to see how it goes."
"Do you remember anything from the gym?" Rick asked eagerly, from his seat on the other chair beside Billy's bed.
Billy looked at Rick, then at Casey, who was leaning stiffly against the wall by the door, and shook his head. "Not really."
If Billy didn't know any better, he could have sworn he saw Casey visibly relax.
"Although," Billy added, slowly, "I do remember part of a story Casey told me in the car."
Casey bristled again.
"What was it?" Rick asked, genuinely curious.
Billy tilted his head and gazed into the distance, lost in thought, as he pieced the story together. "He told me about… how he was a gymnast in high school. And how he almost got a… ten on his final performance to win the state title. But he hopped at the end and didn't stick... So he was runner-up."
Billy finished his thoughts, then looked over at Casey, whose stony expression was unreadable.
Even Michael looked dubious.
"Well," Michael finally said, breaking the silence and patting Billy's arm reassuringly, "the doctor did say it could take a few weeks to regain normal brain function."
Billy looked at Casey, confused, but not ready to give up. "You told me that, right?"
Casey scoffed. "Can you see me wearing spandex?"
"But what about the ten… and the state title… and the hopping? I couldn't have made all that up," Billy insisted, hoping that indeed, he had not made it up.
Because for some reason, the idea of Casey bounding around as a gymnast resonated with him. Almost like deja' vu, but not quite. And also, if Billy was going to totally dream things up, he'd prefer it if the dream involved a beautiful woman in a bikini and not a sweaty Casey in Lycra.
"You didn't make all of it up," Casey replied. "I told you a story about how I dated a girl in high school who was a ten and the runner up for the state title beauty pageant. You asked me what happened and I told you I hopped around and dated too many girls. Therefore, it didn't stick. Your bruised mind must have merged that story with the trauma from the gym in some bizarre fashion."
Billy looked positively crestfallen. "So that didn't happen?"
Casey shook his head.
"But it seemed so real…" Billy said sadly, his voice tapering off. Then he stifled a yawn.
"Well," Michael said standing up, "we should probably give you some rest. And I don't know about Rick and Casey, but I'm starving."
Rick stood up and moved towards to door with Michael. "Do you think they serve goulash downstairs?" he asked with a grin.
And battered brain or not, Billy knew he correctly interpreted Casey's face.
Billy ran quickly to the building under the cover of night, careful to avoid the security cameras.
It had been two weeks since he had returned from Romania. The CIA docs had only cleared him for desk duty so far, but Billy thought that was just ludicrous. After all, he felt fine. And watching his desk all day was boring. So he did his best to never spend time there. Instead, he spent his day talking to whoever he could find, flirting with the ladies, and playing tricks on Blanke. And when that got old, he would set about procuring office supplies. In short, he spent his time was anywhere but at his desk.
But a new mission was exactly what Billy needed. It felt good to be excited again. To feel the rush as he picked the lock and slipped inside. To disarm the security system with a code he had reconned earlier in the day. To silently make his way down the corridor, looking for the target, the Intel.
Yes, a mission was exactly what Billy needed.
He doubted Higgins would approve. But really, when had he ever cared about what Higgins thought? All that mattered was he had Michael's backing. Well, he would, after he shared his Intel. Billy felt a bit bad about sneaking around his fearless leader's back, but not too much. The ends would justify the means. Even Michael would agree.
Besides, this mission was low-risk. And not "Romania low-risk" but "real" low-risk. So low that the risk really didn't even register. Billy could have pulled this mission off in university, if not earlier. So, all in all, it was a no-risk mission with a rich Intel payoff. A win-win, all the way around.
Billy looked around the corner before he turned into the hallway. It was empty. He quickly ran down the corridor until he came to a set of double doors. He pushed down on the handle and smiled when it gave way. He slowly opened the door and peeked inside. Seeing no one, he slipped inside and closed the door behind him.
Now that he had reached his destination, Billy pulled out his penlight. He approached the glass case and began scanning for what he was looking for. After a minute, he found it. Billy read for a moment, then broke into a broad smile. The Intel was exactly what he needed.
Thankfully, Billy did not have to bring it with him. In this particular case, a photo would suffice. Which was really good news, since Billy doubted it would go unnoticed if he broke the glass. And while he felt reasonably fit and recovered, he'd rather not have a run-in with a guard.
So Billy slipped the phone out of his pocket. He lined the shot up perfectly, so that all the entire piece of Intel was visible, and snapped a picture. Then he composed a brief message, attached the photo, and hit "send".
His mission now completed, Billy pocketed his phone, exited the building, and slipped out into the night.
His phone was vibrating and that was never a good sign.
At least not at one o'clock in the morning.
Michael wasn't asleep. He actually hadn't even gone to bed yet. Instead, he was poring over a file he had brought home from the office. But reviewing a file was really the only work thing he felt like doing tonight. And as tempted as he was to ignore his phone, he couldn't. Someone might need him and besides, he was just too paranoid.
So he reached over and picked it up, surprised to see he had a new text message from Billy.
Billy was supposed to be at home, sleeping. Or playing his guitar. Or reading Shakespeare or drinking scotch or even going out on a date. Billy was supposed to be doing something, anything, besides working.
But Billy never texted Michael about personal things. It was always work and only work. Which meant tonight, at one a.m., Billy was working.
Michael frowned and opened the message. It simply read "Intel".
Well, that was certainly cryptic.
But there was also a photo attached so Michael launched it, curious to see what on earth Billy meant and what on earth was worth texting about at one a.m. And when the picture opened, Michael knew.
He knew what was so important that Billy was up in the middle of the night. Why he was apparently on a mission of his own making. Why he was willing to defy his orders to stay out of the field. And why he was flaunting it in Michael's face.
Because sometimes, the Intel was just too good. And sometimes, the ends do justify the means.
And as Michael looked at the picture, he couldn't help but smile.
Because Billy had sent him a photo of an old trophy in a case.
And clearly inscribed on it were these words:
1983 Men's Gymnastics State Championship