A/N: The title is a Israeli proverb. A big, big thanks to faye_dartmouth for the great beta and the prodding and support until I managed to finish the story.
This is pre-series, so no Rick.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately the boys belong to the CBS, else I would have let them continue their adventures.


All things grow with time (- except grief) Israeli proverb

Casey hated working with other agencies. It didn't matter whether these agencies were from his own country or if they were from foreign ones. Because he still had to play nice with people he didn't really like, he would have to trust other people with getting intel when he would rather do it himself and worst of all he had to trust them to watch his back. It had taken him long enough to trust his recent teammates with this much.

Since starting with the Agency, Casey had worked on his own. It had been deeply ingrained in him to not trust anyone but himself. Really, that was a large reason joining the CIA had been so appealing in the first place. That, and the fact that he was paid to maim people and cause general destruction. It had taken him some time to adapt to working in a team and expecting him to trust in strangers for just one mission was simply too much. And all of this just to keep up the farce of good interagency cooperation. Such things were political fallacies, propagated by governmental departments that had no concept of the actual application of such idealistic measures.

Generally the ODS didn't work with other agencies. The team was good on its own, didn't need or want any outside help, and they didn't exactly play well with others. Higgins had realized that pretty early on and so he simply didn't stick them with interagency missions. For the sake of his nerves, for the peace of his superiors, and, of course, for the cause of maintaining good interagency relations. The ODS was the right team for a lot of missions, but those that involved political bandying simply weren't among them, and Casey was happy to admit it.

Only this time the collaboration couldn't be avoided and the ODS was forced to work with the Mossad. Casey didn't like the Israeli agency. They were arrogant, thickheaded and generally too ignorant to learn from somebody else or just accept advice. Especially when they were operating on their own soil.

Still, the Mossad was good, Casey could admit that. He even admired their fighting style and their endurance. But that didn't mean he had to like working with them or that he had to be nice to them. That was why they had Billy. The Scot was good at smoothing out ruffled feathers and being friendly even under the most trying situations. Billy had patience for such things. Casey would have banged their heads together if he could.

It was a simple intel gathering mission. One that was connected to a long term mission of the ODS concerning a weapons trader in the Middle East. Over the past months the team had gathered information on the trader and his organization, hoping to one day step in and stop him. But for now, their knowledge about how the organization worked or who worked for it was sparse.

About a week ago the Mossad had gotten news of a Palestine sympathizer who was setting up a weapons deal in Jerusalem with that particular trader. And since the CIA had ties everywhere, they had caught wind of it and, since it was technically their mission in the first place, the ODS wanted in.

It had been a hassle to convince the Mossad to share their intelligence and let them work together, but Higgins was well versed in interagency cooperation and offering quid-pro-quos, so eventually the team had been sent to Jerusalem.

And now, two thirds of the ODS was following the Palestinian over Jerusalem's rooftops.

Somehow the meet had gone wrong. Casey blamed the Mossad.

Billy and he had gone in as arms dealers, willing to offer their mark a contract. Two Mossad agents posed as their bodyguards. But the Palestinian had caught on to them, had actually recognized one of the agents and after drawing his gun, he had fled.

Casey and Billy hadn't wasted a second and were running after the Palestinian. The Mossad agents were behind them, but were slowly and definitely losing ground.

Whose idea it had been to meet on the rooftop, Casey didn't know, but he would definitely find out and show them his opinion with his fists.

The houses stood close together in this part of the city and all of them had flat roofs, which made crossing them easier. Still, Casey was wary of the steep drops in between. The air was dry around him, grating in his lungs as he jumped from one roof to the next and he could taste the sand on his tongue.

It was hot in Jerusalem, the sun was beating down on them and Casey knew that the weather was not meant for running around in, much less chasing someone across the rooftops. But those were obstacles that could be ignored and could be overcome. Casey had trained his body and his mind to survive under less than perfect circumstances and the weather wasn't the worst he had encountered.

But still, Billy was faster. Longer legs had the clear advantage in their mad dash and Casey forced his legs to pump harder. He had long ago accepted his size, had compensated for it and had come out as the best fighter of the Agency. He was not going to get outdistanced.

Casey crossed another gap and the second his feet hit the roof, he felt something in his left knee give away. It snapped to one side, while the rest of his body went the other way and Casey landed in a disgraced heap.

Pain flared up, sharp and sudden, but Casey knew that he had to ignore it. So he pushed it into the furthest corner of his mind, into a small box where he always hid it away and forced himself onto his feet again. Because Billy and the Palestinian were nearly at the other end of the roof, ready to jump to the next.

With his teeth clenched, Casey tried to step forward, but his knee buckled as he placed any weight on it, the pain flaring back up. He immediately shifted, put all of his weight on the uninjured, right leg and watched from afar as Billy crashed into the Palestinian mid-jump. Both men landed hard on the other house, rolling with the force of the impact and then came up fighting.

Casey shuffled forward, cursing under his breath. He knew that Billy was a good fighter. After all, Casey had shown the Scot most of his moves, but that didn't stop him from worrying. And that was another reason why Casey usually preferred to work alone: there was no need to be scared or worried for somebody else but himself.

Working with the ODS hadn't made him soft, Casey knew that. But he also knew that since he became a member of the team he wasn't working at 100% anymore. Just like working with Linda had decreased his performance, so had working with Michael and Billy. And it had taken entirely too long to get back to 98% after losing Carson.

He trusted in his teammates' ability to defend themselves, but he would rather do the fighting. And if he could just get over the edge and onto the other roof, he could help Billy.

In the end he was too far away to help. Casey didn't really see what happened or how it happened, but Billy and the Palestinian were now engaged in thorough hand to hand, their momentum propelling them precariously toward the ledge that neither of them seemed to be readily aware of.

The flat roofs had no balustrades as a security measure and the second the Palestinian stepped too close to the edge and started to slip, he had no chance to stop the fall. But clearly he didn't want to take the fall alone, because Casey watched as the Palestinian's hands fisted in Billy's shirt.

Even from across the other rooftop, Casey could see the surprise and fear in Billy's eyes and he was sure that his own eyes reflected that as well.

That was way he hated working with other people. They made him care and they made him feel scared and Casey hated to feel scared. And right now he was terrified. Because Billy had just fallen down three stories.


Casey didn't know how he made it down to the street. His knee was in agony and he could feel it swelling, the flesh already straining the material of his pants. He knew that, at worse, he had torn a ligament, but right now he couldn't do anything about it.

Pain was something metaphysical , something a strong mind could overcome and Casey had trained long enough to get to that point. But it wasn't the pain that bothered him at the moment. It was the uncertainty that nagged at his mind, the dread that Billy had fallen to his death and Casey had watched it happen without a chance to step in and prevent it.

Down on the street, a small crowd of people had already formed and Casey shoved them hard to the side. The people willingly moved to the side and far too soon Casey saw Billy. The human weapon was no stranger to fear, he just simply tried to ignore it most of the time. Because it was a weakness that he couldn't afford.

But this was a fear he couldn't push back. This was that two percent he'd given up and never gotten back. Because this was his teammate, it was Billy. The Scot could be, at times, annoying with his incessant chatter and his permanent good mood, but he was also the only one who gave back as good as he got and wasn't scared to tell Casey no. And he respected Billy for that, even though he would never admit it. And he needed it; it kept him grounded and it forced him to get better.

And seeing Billy sprawled on his back, long legs and arms akimbo and head turned away, made Casey's heart skip a beat. Panic started to rise in him, creeping in at the edge of his subconsciousness and threatening to overtake his mind, but he ruthlessly squashed it down, buried it under layers of professionalism.

Still, with the doubts, he had hesitated for a second and that had been enough for the Mossad agents to finally arrive. They had been late throughout the chase across the rooftops, and Casey felt anger and resentment at the other agents. He and Billy could have used them minutes ago, now they were too late and still tried to be in charge. Because the second they arrived, they demanded attention, made their presence known to everyone around by pushing them to the side and forming a perimeter. Casey found himself in the group of bystanders.

Good interagency cooperation be damned, Casey was not going to be brushed off like some ignorant passer-by. He was not going to watch the agents of the Mossad pretend to be in charge over everything; just checking the unmoving Palestinian and ignoring Billy, so he elbowed his way back in.

When he finally did stand next to Billy, Casey didn't know what to do. He couldn't get down, his knee was stiff and swollen and still aching dully. Once he was on the ground, he wouldn't be getting up on his own again.

But there was an ever widening puddle of blood by Billy's head and if there was something Casey had learned while working in a team, it was that sometimes you had to push yourself to the limits and beyond if it meant helping a teammate.

Simms had sacrificed himself to save his team; Billy and Michael would gladly do the same given the chance. The least he could do was to return the favor. Teammates did everything for each other, went through pain and anger and fear. It had taken Casey a long time to learn that, and longer still to accept that. But now he had internalized it and he wouldn't let a measly knee injury stop him.

Billy would do the same and so much more; so Casey forced himself to sit down, left leg stretched out and the right folded under his body. He was not going to move until Billy would.

Casey may not have liked to care for anybody else, but now that he had started to, he didn't know how to quit.


The hospital was a blast of cold; air conditioning working overtime to cool the emergency room down, making the sterile area artificially cold compared to the hot, Israeli summer outside.

Casey had been separated from Billy while they still had been on the street. Two ambulances had taken them to the hospital and now the human weapon was trying hard not to fight with his fists against the doctors but just with words. That had been a lesson Billy had taught him over the years, but while Casey considered himself a fast learner, he often found that diplomacy was the hardest form of fighting there was.

Especially since he knew what was wrong and he also knew that the Israeli doctors couldn't do anything. Not that he would let himself be cut up by those butchers unless he was unconscious and dying. He'd rather try his luck with their American counterparts.

Outfitted with a brace, crutches and the advice to immediately consult another doctor upon arriving in Washington, Casey made his way back into the waiting room. He had been unable to gain any news about Billy; the doctors had only wanted to talk about Casey's condition.

His scowl was set deeper than usual – partly also because he was in pain and had refused medication – as he balanced on the forearm crutches. However unsettling the entire situation was, it wasn't actually that unusual. Billy took the idea of being a team very seriously and had endured more than his share of injuries on behalf of his teammates. More often than not it took hours until the ODS were informed about Billy's latest injury. Casey might think it would get easier over time, but this mission was proving otherwise.

At least he wasn't the only one in a bad mood. Michael wasn't looking any happier.

"You okay?" Michael asked and let his gaze drift down to Casey's ripped pant leg.

Which was another reason why Casey was scowling. Another ruined suit. It was par of the course in his line of work. Clothes got ruined regularly. Mud, rips, blood or bullet holes; it didn't matter, it was just clothing, nothing special about it. But somehow this was different, because this was the first suit ruined since Simms' death, since he threw a suit away, because it just wouldn't stop smelling of smoke and fire.

"It's just a tear in my ACL. Nothing that won't heal," Casey told Michael. And it was not just to inform Michael, it was also to anchor him back in the here and now. To ignore the uneasy feeling and just remember that he would be throwing this suit away for other reasons and not for an imaginary smell and bad memories. "Any news on Billy?"

Michael shook his head. "No, doctors are clammed up tight. And Higgins wants us back ASAP. Neither he nor the head of Mossad are too happy about how this all turned out."

So Michael had had a quick debrief while Casey had been treated. And from the look of things, that meeting hadn't gone down well. Which was not surprising. The mission had been too hastily constructed in the first place and then badly executed. There was no excuse for failure , but still, Casey hoped that Higgins wouldn't be blaming the whole mess on the ODS.

The doors to the ER behind him opened and Michael's face shifted from annoyed to surprised. Casey didn't need to turn around to know that Billy had just stepped out.

"Is it just me or are the doctors here very persistent?" the Scottish accented words floated over to them.

"That's because they're happy to finally treat something other than gunshot wounds," Casey remarked without turning around.

"Well, I'm always happy not to be treated for gunshot wounds. So I can relate," Billy said and stopped to Casey's right. "What happened to you, mate?"

Casey eyed the Scot with a scalding glance and raised a single eyebrow. Billy looked remarkably fit for someone who had just fallen off a building. A pristine white bandage was wrapped around his forehead, bruises spreading out and down Billy's cheek. His left wrist was splinted and he was limping slightly.

"I was trying to keep up with your unnaturally long legs in the sheer hope to stop you from doing something idiotic. Clearly a fruitless endeavor. "

"Don't sell yourself short, Casey. You prevent plenty of foolish stunts," Billy said and gave Casey a soft slap on the shoulder, mindful of his still precarious stance with the crutches. "I'll take it the debriefing didn't go too well?" The Scot continued.

Casey clenched his teeth harder. It was a distraction tactic of Billy's that had worked more than once already: always address the most pressing topic and no one would ask after the things Billy didn't want to talk about. In this case, if they talked about the mission, then they wouldn't talk about Billy's health.

"We've been ordered home," Michael explained. "Are you fit to travel?"

In general, it was a good tactic, and Billy was adept at using it. It was just a pity that Michael and Casey had seen through this scheme and, since then, ignored it most of the time. Billy shuffled on his feet a bit, and unease was radiating of the taller man. Casey knew that whatever came next would only be the half truth. But getting the truth from Billy was harder than getting a smile from Casey.

There was a slight shift in Billy's stance and a grin spread over his features. "Aye, I'll be right as rain before Casey."

Casey eyed Billy with a vague distrust. Billy had fallen three stories, which was no small thing, even for Billy. So called medical miracles did happen from time to time, but the ODS had never been that lucky. But for now the other man was standing and talking coherently. And no matter how much he disliked Higgins, Casey really wanted to fly back to Washington. The dry heat was nagging at him; he could feel the skin on his nose stretch with the beginnings of a sunburn and most importantly, as soon as he was home, he could take painkillers.

It was a golden rule in his little book on surviving: never willingly take pain medication while on a mission or outside the US. The rule had been tried and tested long before he had joined the ODS and he was not going to deviate from it.

Michael was looking at Casey and Billy, worry and calculation clear in his eyes. Their leader was probably judging whether or not they really where up to flying. Especially Billy. Confirmation from a doctor that either of them were ready to travel was, probably, on the top of Michael's list right now. Because Michael needed to have all the information, all the time; with just a few parts missing he couldn't plan properly. It was a fact that made him a good leader and a paranoid bastard. Casey was happy just following orders, sometimes not knowing the whole picture and right now Michael had to do just that and his face screamed disconsolation, even if his words didn't.

So Casey wasn't at all surprised when Michael simply walked over to the administration desk, clearly demanding to speak to the doctors who had treated them.

"Did the doctor really let you go or did you sign out AMA? Because mine wouldn't let me go and I didn't fall of a building."

Billy smiled back at him, his grin a bit lopsided and not as bright as it could have been. A clear indicator that the other man was in pain. "Aye, let me go despite my charms."

Casey stared impassively back. The doctor was female then and Billy had definitely talked himself out of more intensive care. But he knew that Collins disliked hospitals, a trait they both shared, and if something really was wrong, then Michael would find it out.

"At least there is nothing too important in your head that could get hurt," Casey said, pretending not to care too much. It was, after all, expected of him.

The grin he got in return was more real this time and somewhere deep inside – a place Casey denied existed – something uncurled, made him breathe easier.

"Doctors have cleared both of you," Michael said, stepping in between them and continued on toward the exit. "The tickets are already waiting for us at the airport."

They walked slow and unsteady, Billy limping and Casey trying to work with his crutches, while Michael purposely shortened his pace so that they stayed together as one group.

The glass doors slid open and a wave of heat assaulted them. Despite the sand still clinging in the air, Casey took a deep breath. He really wanted to get back home.


The whole flight back to Dulles was going to take a bit over twelve hours. They'd been flying for just about five hours now and the French landscape was rushing past far below. Not that Casey could actually see it. He was sitting in the aisle seat, his braced left leg stretched out, crutches placed underneath it to support the joint. Billy was right next to him and Michael was sitting at the window, staring down at the landscape.

Generally, flying wasn't much of a problem for Casey. For once, his shorter frame was giving him an advantage, but with his leg artificially straight, the leg room provided just wasn't enough. And it really didn't help that the flight attendants were looking at him with pity in their eyes every time they walked past.

Although he wasn't quite sure if all of their attention was directed at him. Billy did garner a lot of interest with his bruises and his winning smile. For some reason, people found Billy frustratingly charming under normal circumstances, and with his injury, Billy seemed to woo women, girls, children and men alike by merely existing. And he had used that to his advantage by getting them all free drinks.

But now, as more hours passed, the charm seemed to be giving way to exhaustion. Billy started to look worse and started to ignore the flight attendants' advances, which was a clear sign to Casey that something was seriously wrong with his colleague.

He kept a close eye on Billy, knowing that Michael did too. It was, after all, no coincidence that Billy was sitting in between the two operatives.

Billy nudged Casey - and that alone was another sign that something was off, because normally the Scot would accompany that nudge with a slew of words – and demanded to be let into the aisle without saying anything.

Casey mumbled at that. At least a few words would have meant normalcy – something that'd been missing since Billy stopped flirting. Still Casey moved to the side as best as he could and ignored the pain that suddenly stabbed his knee when he moved it. Billy got to his feet, inching toward the aisle before he wavered clumsily.

"Sorry," Billy's apology was barely audible and that was another hint for Casey that the other agent was getting worse. Because Casey knew his colleague, knew his habits and his mannerism and subdued was generally not amongst his repertoire. It was an odd feeling to know his teammates so well that every little shift in demeanor counted. But it also made Casey proud to belong to that team.

This also meant that he was able to react as fast as he did. Because he knew Billy, knew that the other man usually was quick and nimble on his feet. He was not quite at Casey's level of agility, but he was close, so the fact that Billy just stumbled was enough for Casey to move.

In one elegant move, Casey was on his own leg, carefully not putting any weight on the injured left one and caught Billy just as the other man began falling. It was an awkward catch in the small confines of the walkway, and it was also painful. And while Casey couldn't stop Billy from collapsing, he, at least, stopped him from falling face first to the floor.

It was, more or less, a controlled fall and that was the best Casey had hoped for.

By then, the other passengers had realized that something was wrong and started yelling. But none of them were helping and that just really pissed him off, not to mention that it strengthened his belief in their stupidity.

Billy was unconscious in his lap. Flight attendants were walking toward them as fast as they could and Casey just hoped that Michael would deal with them, because his patience had reached its end. He'd been dealing with forced interagency cooperation and the Mossad for the past few weeks and then it was meddling doctors. And now, clearly idiotic Scots.

Sitting on the cold and rough walkway, Casey shifted his hold so that Billy was laying more comfortably, his back against Casey's chest and this position also served another purpose, because that way he could easily monitor Billy's breathing. Normal human contact was not something Casey did often, or willingly. Every touch, every contact was with purpose, especially in situations like these. Because for all that doctors usually bubbled about how human interaction was good for the recovery, Billy was unconscious and Casey didn't believe that he even realized that someone was around.

The flight attendants were leaning over them, asking questions and there was the call out for a doctor on board over the PA system, but Casey ignored it all. He was pretty sure that, if he started talking, nothing nice would come out and he had always followed the old adage to shut up if you didn't have anything nice to say. So he just waited while he hoisted Billy closer and glared


The closest airport was Charles-de Gaulle and their flight was immediately diverted to it.

There was no doctor, or nurse on the flight, but that was something that didn't bother Casey or Michael. Both were trained in first aid, could and had provided life saving measures under far worse conditions, but there wasn't much they could actually do right now. They had checked Billy's pupil reaction, monitored his breathing and his pulse – all within normal ranges – and hoped that they would land soon, because they clearly needed more than basic first aid to find out what was wrong with Billy.

The plane touched down not even fifteen minutes later. With the emergency on board, their flight took priority over everything else. An ambulance was already waiting on the airfield, back doors open and medics ready to act. Casey was, for once, grateful for the quiet competence of the flight crew.

The medics didn't waste any time and within seconds Billy was on the stretcher and out of the plane. While Casey really wanted to drive with him to the hospital – mostly to tear him a new one, as soon as the Scott woke up – he and Michael had to stay behind, wait for their luggage and talk to the police.

Higgins was not going to like that any more than they did. But for now, his boss was Casey's smallest problem and he did trust Michael's ability to bullshit his way through everything to straighten things out.

With all the talking – Michael did the talking, Casey fumed silently – and the coordinating, it took them nearly an hour before they finally managed to get to the hospital.

Still, inside the hospital, it took them far too long until they found someone who had treated Billy and by that time, Casey was holding onto his patience by thin threads.

He hadn't eaten for hours, yet he felt like he needed to vomit. His stomach was churning with worry and Casey felt weak, felt far less than 98%, maybe even as low as 90%. And that was an intolerable condition.

So when the doctor who had treated Billy in the ER accused them of not paying closer attention to Billy's condition and of being irresponsible friends to have let him fly, Casey snapped.

He was up and nearly in the doctor's face in less than a second, staring up at the man with the fiercest scowl that he usually reserved for terrorists and the lowest of idiots. "No second-rate quack is denigrating us," he started, raising his finger to tap it not-so-gently into the doctor's chest. But before he could continue, could become really biting, Michael was pulling him backwards.

"Damnit, Malick. Calm down," Michael snarled into his ear and Casey took deep, shuttering breaths that did nothing to calm him down.

And Michael must have realized that, could probably guess that Casey was still upset, because he didn't let go of his shoulders.

"I know, Casey," Michael continued, clearly also exasperated by the doctor's accusations, but far better at hiding it. "But getting into his face is only going to get us thrown out of the hospital. And that's not going to help us either or Billy for that matter."

Casey knew that Michael's logic was sound. It still would make him feel better if he could get rid of some of his tension, but instead he tightened his fingers around the handles of his crutches, the skin turning white over his knuckles, and he swallowed his anger down. Later, at a more opportune time, Casey would use this anger, this tension to keep going.

Michael left him alone for the time being to continue to talk to the doctor. But even from farther away , Casey could see the stiff spine and square shoulders. Shoulders that slumped seconds before the doctor turned around and left.

"They've got Billy settled in a room. His intracranial pressure is too high, they're monitoring it closely, but it should decrease on its own," Dorset said as he turned around.

"Proof that Collins actually does have a brain. It's a pity he doesn't use it more often to think instead of banging it against something," Casey replied and pushed himself away from the wall. "Did the quack tell you which room."

Michael simply nodded. And Casey could see his shoulders straightening again, he knew that movement. It was a defense mechanism against hospitals in general, something that Casey knew well and also employed. He hated hospitals in general, knew that Michael did too, despite the fact that he once was a pre-med. But hospitals, in their line of work, usually meant death. For now they'd been lucky enough to always walk out again and Casey was just a bit grateful that he didn't see Simms die in one. He'd already associated hospitals with too many bad memories, Casey didn't need that memory too. Otherwise, his probably already shaky trust in the health system would have disappeared completely.

But as much as he wanted to walk out of the hospital, he also knew that he couldn't. So he steeled his shoulders and followed Michael deeper into the building.


Three days in and Casey's eyes were starting to feel gritty. It wasn't lack of sleep that made them feel dry. It was more the A/C that was set at a far too cold setting. It annoyed him. Although, if Casey was honest with himself, and he always was, he wasn't actually angry at the too cold A/C, it was just a convenient outlet. Because it was easier being angry at an inanimate thing than at Billy, who again had hid the seriousness of his injury, or being angry at himself and Michael for not pressing more about it. They knew that Billy never took his injuries seriously, belittled them, and they should have pressed for more details. But they had all just wanted to go home, leave that sandy, hot country and they had paid the price for their inattentiveness.

Billy had slipped in and out of consciousness in these past days, becoming more and more lucid every time. And, as was in his nature, he had already started to flirt with the nurses. But for now he was out, sleeping more or less soundlessly and Casey would have enjoyed the silence if his brain wasn't currently engaged in self-reproach.

It wasn't just the fact that Billy was injured that got to him, it was the fact that he actually worried about the Scot. Casey had never worried about other people, not about his parents or his siblings or about any other agent that he'd been temporarily partnered with since he started working for the CIA. But this had all changed with Linda and then the ODS. He had worked hard to keep his distance, to stay cold and uncaring toward his teammates, but it hadn't worked out. Slowly but definitely Michael, Billy and Carson had found their way into his life. And he couldn't help but care for them.

He'd worked hard to let the others in, made sure that he accounted for them in his performance, so that he could always be a 100% no matter the situation. But with Carson dead, he was imbalanced, he was down to 98% and since he knew just how fickle life could be, Casey was struggling to accept that maybe he would never be 100%.

Simms death made him painfully aware of that. Casey had just started to learn how to work in a team, but this loss had made him lose some confidence in himself. Maybe teamwork was not for him, maybe working alone would be the better solution. This whole mess with Billy was just adding to his insecurities. He was working too hard to compensate, and it was wearing him down. He was too scared, too weak, too vulnerable. Maybe he needed to start again, away from his team.

"If you keep thinking that hard, you're going to activate the smoke alarm," Billy's voice broke through his thoughts and Casey shifted his glare from his braced knee to the Scot's face.

"At least one of us is capable of thinking," he returned, not bothering to hide his distaste.

"Seems like enough for now," Billy shrugged and shifted a bit on the bad. His forehead was wrinkled in pain and he squinted his eyes, but Casey didn't call the nurse for pain meds, not unless Billy would ask for them. It would betray their trust and besides, Casey understood the preference of pain over the washed out feeling from the medication.

"You would think that," Casey grumbled under his breath, but he knew that Billy had heard him.

"That's what I've got you and Michael around for. Brawns and Brains and I'm the pretty face that makes it all work. I trust you to catch me when I fall and you did," Billy said, shrugging his shoulder awkwardly.

"We won't always be around," Casey replied instead of snorting, which had been his first though. Of course Collins believed in that kind of trust, even though Simms' death should have shown him otherwise. The rest of the ODS had clearly had failed to catch Carson, but then, they had all worked even harder to protect the others from harm. And in a way that made them stronger. Still it was no reason to act harshly or to, again, hide injuries, because there would be a time when the team would be separated and that would make them weaker.

Billy sighed and his eyes closed again. "But you'll always come back. We're a team, Casey, we're stronger together." His voice had tapered off and Casey knew that Billy had fallen asleep again. Something he was incredible grateful for. Collins was the philosophical one in the team and he always, without fail, managed to get what either Michael or Casey were worrying about. And, as usual, with a few pointed words, he mentally disarmed him.

They were stronger as a team, Billy was right about that. Their weakness and strengths fit together, equaled themselves out. So maybe it was okay if he wasn't a full 100% anymore. He had two more than capable operatives at his back who would make up for the missing two percent – and then some. As a team, they didn't have to be limited by 100%. They could exceed that – limited only by their inhibitions and fears.

Not that Casey was going to tell Billy that. He would never hear the end of it.

The End