PART THREE

When Billy was fourteen, he ran away from home.

The reasons why were vague to him now, but he could still remember his indignant thoughts, about how limited he was, about how no one treated him right, about how he could do so much better on his own.

But now, sitting in the jungle in Venezuela, nursing a broken leg and watching a man suffer on his account, he began to wonder if the reasons mattered at all. He hadn't run away because life was too much. He'd run away because he'd been too scared. It wasn't about the reasons; it was about him.

It was always about him.

Stupid and selfish and scared. He wasn't fourteen, but he hadn't learned anything. These years later, he was still making the same mistakes. But this wasn't a maths test, this was life and death…

Michael's life and death.

He didn't want that to matter, but it did. Michael had done more for him than he'd known, than he deserved...

And he was going to die. Because Billy had broken his leg – because Billy had run without looking and hadn't trusted him. Because Billy had screwed up and got himself exiled from his homeland and no one else wanted him but Michael Dorset.

Because Billy was stupid and selfish and scared.

Sitting there, watching Michael, Billy was more scared than ever. Michael's leg was almost unrecognizable; his face was flushed, lips colorless even as the fever burned in his cheeks. The tremors had left him spent, and he'd lapsed into a listless unconsciousness.

Desperate, Billy squeezed his arm. "Michael," he said, trying not to sound terrified. "You can't very well plan my torture while unconscious."

Michael didn't flinch; didn't even twitch.

Billy squeezed harder, breath catching and tears stinging. "Michael," he tried again, his voice hinging now. It was all falling apart, just like before, just like always. Everything good went tits up, nothing gold could ever say. And it was Billy's fault, his fault…

"Please, mate," he said – pleading now. "I reckon I need you to get out of this one. If you don't wake up, Casey and Carson are likely to kill me, and that wouldn't do any of us much good now, would it?"

It was a joke, though not much of one. It didn't do any good. Michael showed no signs of hearing him.

Michael wouldn't, either. Because Michael was dying.

Michael was dying.

The starkness of it stole his breath, pounding in his ears. He was too terrified to cry, too overwhelmed to talk it out.

He needed to run.

He needed to run now.

He needed to run, to get out of here, to leave this behind. He needed to get out, get out, get out—

His fingers were locked on Michael, though. His eyes on Michael's lax face.

He needed to run—

This time, it would be different. Because if he ran, he wouldn't run alone. There was a middle ground, desperate and fleeting, and if the ODS had taught him anything, it was that running wasn't just about him. It was about the people he left behind. It was his easy way out, but for everyone else…

For his family and his friends back in the UK. For Michael.

Billy wasn't the only one with issues, but he was the only one in this for himself.

Billy's stomach clenched, face hardening.

Not anymore.

He needed to run, but this time it would be different. This time, he wouldn't go alone.

It was difficult – painful and trying, and Billy's vision dimmed precariously – but he managed to maneuver himself next to Michael. Pulling the other man up was an exhausting effort, Michael's dead weight proving to be hard to handle and heavy on his shoulders. It was hard to breath, and he found himself trembling with the exertion, but he pressed on anyway.

Finding his way to his feet was even more difficult, and he had to steady himself for a long moment on a nearby tree as he forced out hot breaths through his nose. Everything hurt – agony pulsed through him almost to the point of unconsciousness – but he controlled it. He had to control it.

Pushing it back ruthlessly, he opened his eyes and blinked until his vision cleared. The first step was precarious, teetering and nauseating, but he couldn't think about that. He couldn't think about anything but running.

Getting out.

For Michael.

And Billy started to run.

-o-

Billy ran.

He didn't look back. He didn't think about where he was going. Those were mostly irrelevant details; the only thing that mattered was going.

One foot after the other.

One foot…

The other…

He could no longer remember which leg was broken; they both hurt. Everything hurt. His bones ached, his muscles strung taut with tension. Each step reverberated through to his skull, and his pounding heart almost deafened him as he kept his pace.

Because he couldn't slow down.

He had to run.

He didn't stop to think about the bad guys. He didn't stop think about his own leg. He didn't think about the ODS and their hazing, MI6 and its charges. He didn't think about his lonely flat or the friends he couldn't call anymore or the teammates he didn't know how to trust.

This wasn't about any of that. It wasn't even about him anymore.

It was about Michael.

Safety.

One foot after the other.

Running.

Stumbling, breath stuttering, the foliage blurring together, the pressing weight on his shoulders so much, too much, too much.

His vision tunneled, his arms felt numb. He was crying, snot clogging his nose even as his head seemed ready to explode.

He didn't think he could make it, but he had to make it.

He had to.

He almost tripped, head spinning and he ran into a tree, almost throwing himself off balance. Blindly, he forced himself onward. He could only hope Michael was still on his shoulders, still alive as he trudged forward, wavering precariously as he kept running.

Determined as he was, he didn't see Carson and Casey until he ran into them, trying to stumble past them.

"Hey, hey, hey," Carson said, fingers gripping Billy's arm. "Easy, kiddo. Easy."

Billy heard the words, but they didn't make any sense. Nothing made sense. He tried to push on, shaking his head.

Someone firmed stopped him, neatly tugging at the weight on his shoulders.

Billy's brow furrowed, trying to focus his eyes and made out Casey's scowling expression right in front of him. "Need to get him out," he mumbled. "Need to run."

"You need to let go," Casey said tersely, trying to extricate Michael's still form.

Billy lashed out, feeling panicked. He had to run, keep moving, run.

"Seriously, kid," Carson said, and Billy tried to move his eyes over, tried to see but it was hard to focus. "You don't look so good."

Billy blinked at him, Carson's weathered face actually looked concerned. Like he cared.

Michael, Billy remembered. This was about Michael.

He wet his lips, feeling himself shake. "Snakebite," he said, too aware of his chattering teeth.

Carson frowned. "We'll take care of it," he promised.

"Now let go," Casey said again, more forcefully this time. "Or I'll put you on your ass and take him from you."

Billy turned his eyes, wide and staring back at Casey. The other man looked different. Still angry and terse, but…worried.

Casey was worried.

Carson was worried.

They were here.

They were here.

Billy had run far enough; he'd done it. He'd got Michael to help. In all his years of running, he'd never actually made it to his destination.

Until now.

The realization settled over him, stealing his remaining strength. There was nothing left to run from. There was nothing left to run to.

All that was left was to let go.

To trust.

With Michael in good hands, Billy's eyes rolled up in his head and he passed out.

-o-

It was supposed to be the easy way out. Giving up, after all, was a coward's way out. Billy had run so long and so hard all to escape the inevitability of consequences.

Yet, the consequences always found him, one way or another.

The cloying blackness was no different. It was not the reprieve he might have hoped for; it was not a reprieve at all. It held him fast, keeping him against his will, and when his instincts screamed to fight, he found himself immobilized.

There was pain, of course, but it didn't matter as much as the rest. As much as the embarrassment and the misery and the guilt. He was a bloody mess. A poor excuse for a spy; a poor excuse for a friend.

No one wanted him. Running away let him pretend like it was his choice, not theirs.

But the thing was, it wasn't true.

Even in the dark, he could still hear Michael's voice. You might be the best thing that ever happened to this team.

If it didn't seem possible, the flip side was suddenly unavoidable: this team might be the best thing that had ever happened to him.

The blackness took him deeper, and he finally hoped – finally trusted – that he would have a chance to find out.

-o-

When the darkness abated, he realized he was on his back, looking up at a blank tile ceiling. There was a light positioned off to the side, too bright and glaring.

He winced, trying to shy away from its onslaught but the small movement sparked the pain again.

Billy shuddered, inhaling sharply, tears stinging his eyes.

And it all came back to him. The jungle; the running. The broken leg; the snake.

He startled, jolting upward. The sudden exertion made his head spin, and when someone pressed back on his shoulders, he had no choice but to comply. "Whoa, kid," Carson cajoled, holding him down firmly.

Billy worked to focus his eyes, finding it more difficult than it seemed like it should be. When he finally managed to get them to look in the right direction, Carson's face came into view.

He looked tired, but he was smiling – if grimly. "They don't want you to go messing up your leg."

For a second, Billy could only stare. Then, he looked down and saw his leg encompassed by a bulky air cast. He still couldn't quite feel it – the general level of pain was effusive and hard to pinpoint – and he half wondered if the leaden feeling should be disconcerting.

To his side, Casey snorted. "What he means to say is that you've already managed to almost destroy your chances of walking normally again. You may as well lie still in the off chance that these idiot doctors can pull off a miracle."

Billy turned his head, eyes focusing in time to see Casey scowl at him. He was sitting down opposite Carson, slouched and glaring, arms crossed and shoulders squared.

Carson took a deep breath, squeezing his shoulder this time. "They're better than they look," he said. "And this mission seems pretty much ready made for miracles, you know?"

Billy turned his head again, ignoring the growing ache that was fogging everything. He was missing something; he was missing a lot of things. His leg, his fever, his—

His eyes locked on Carson's. "Michael," he said, even though his words sounded garbled. He swallowed and his throat was scratchy but he pressed the word out again regardless. "Michael."

Carson's expression flickered ever so slightly, but then he forced a smile. "You don't need to worry about that, okay?"

But Billy shook his head. He hadn't survived all this – he hadn't done all this – to be placated with platitudes. If he stayed, he was going to stay with all the information.

He wanted to demand that; no, he wanted to cajole that. He wanted to charm and smile and get his way because he could.

Except he couldn't.

He was too tired. He was too hot. Everything was burning and cold and hurting and…

He shut his eyes, rallying whatever energy he had left. It wasn't much, but when he opened his eyes, he fixed Carson with another stare. "Is he – okay?" he asked, words halting as he tried to work up enough saliva in his mouth. "The – snakebite?"

It was Casey that responded in clipped, terse words. "You just destroyed your leg," he said, matter of fact while Billy rolled his head back. "You have extensive orthopedic surgery ahead of you and you still may never walk again, assuming you haven't sent bone fragments all over your bloodsteam with your antics."

Billy frowned.

"What Casey's trying to say is," Carson interjected purposefully, and Billy turned his head back, feeling his energy wane again, "you've got enough to worry about. You're not out of the woods yet yourself, so we want you to focus on making sure you get through this surgery."

There was something to this, and on some level, Billy understood. He understood that sometimes running was the easy out; sometimes it just made everything worse. It would be ironic, really. If he'd run to save his life and cost himself everything…

But not everything. He gathered a breath, forcing himself to stay awake, to stay steady. To ask: "Michael?"

Carson's shoulders fell. "Didn't know you cared so much, kid."

Of course they didn't. Billy was still a selfish bastard to them. They probably blamed him – they should blame him.

And that was fine. They could hate him; they could leave him out to dry; they could do whatever the hell they bloody wanted, but he had to know. "Please," he asked, pleading now. "Michael?"

Carson looked spent, but Casey joined in again. "Thanks to the fact that you managed to tell us he was bitten before passing out, we were able to expedite his treatment," he explained. His jaw worked, lips going thin. "They narrowed down the species pretty quickly and had enough antivenin to get him started on a drip right away. It seems to be working in that he's alive."

Billy's chest hitched. "But?"

Carson sighed. "But you two were out there for a long time," he said, almost sounding apologetic. "Even if the antivenin keeps him alive, his leg might already be necrotic."

Billy blinked.

"They don't think they'll need to amputate…" Carson trailed off, shrugging.

Amputate.

If it keeps him alive.

Billy had run. He'd given everything he had.

And it wasn't enough.

Casey was still talking; Carson's hand was on his arm. But Billy couldn't hear them; couldn't quite feel them. Everything was slipping away, just like always, and this time Billy didn't even try to hold on.

-o-

Billy had always been scared. He'd thought if he gave an inch, it'd all come crashing down. If he let go, it'd all get away from him.

But this time, it was nothing nearly so climactic.

This time, he'd expected to die, perhaps. To be alone and abandoned.

Not comfortably numb on his back in a hospital bed.

Billy was aware of this fact even before he was aware of much else. Full awareness was slow in coming, and he found himself drifting, mumbling answers to the doctors and nurses, blinking back to sleep before they finished explaining to him what was going on.

He found, in truth, that he didn't care.

He had no energy to care.

Casey and Carson were there from time to time, serious and quiet. They told him it was okay, things were okay, things would get better, and Billy closed his eyes to sleep.

The ceiling changed from one room to the next. The doctors shifted; the nurses came and went. And when Billy found himself awake for more than two minutes, he came to the stark and unsettling revelation that he was going to be okay.

He was awake, alert and indisputably alive.

And alone.

Casey and Carson had come and gone in however much time had passed, more than Billy might have expected, but their jokes were guarded, their friendliness forced even as Billy came in and out of consciousness. If they were scared like Michael said, then this whole mess had probably made things worse. After all, Billy had come out with nothing but a broken leg and Michael was almost dead. The damage from Billy's failings could very well be irreparable. The ODS had granted him a tenuous place on their team. He'd taken that for granted. Now, he could have lost it.

He swallowed hard, and refused to let himself cry. The pain meds were still strong enough to make it hard to focus, harder still to think rationally, but he had to be done with self-pity. If this was his fault, he would accept it.

For Michael.

Sighing, he lolled his head to the side and realized that his new room was not private. There was another bed not far from him, a curtain half pulled around the bottom half, though the head of the bed was exposed.

At first, all Billy could see was a bank of equipment that rivaled his own. The tubes and wires were extensive, and Billy had to wonder what the poor sod had done to end up as Billy's roommate.

But then, he squinted, forcing his brain to function despite the numbness, blinking through the dimness. The figure was familiar.

Michael.

His team leader was laid out, eyes closed and arms positioned at his sides. The pale blue hospital gown was visible under the thin blanket that was folded up to his chest. He had a nasal cannula strung up under his nose, snaking behind his ears and behind his head to an oxygen canister. There was a pair of IVs, and there was a pulse ox monitor clipped to Michael's forefinger that mimicked Billy's own.

It was hard to see, but he caught just a glimpse of Michael's leg, wrapped securely and propped up. With the bandages, it was impossible to see if it was still swollen, if it was necrotic…

But it was still there, which was something.

Sometimes presence alone mattered. If this ordeal had taught him anything, it had taught him that.

Though, lying there, he thought he probably should have learned that lesson years ago, back at MI6, back at university, back when he was fourteen and running away from home. He hadn't, and these were the consequences. His own leg almost mangled beyond use and Michael almost dying.

There were consequences.

He inhaled raggedly. "I'm sorry," he said, voice uneven through the stillness, almost lost in the hum of the machines.

Michael, on the bed next to him, showed no signs of hearing him.

Wetting his lips in futility, Billy pressed on. "Too many people in life have paid dearly for my mistakes," he continued. "I tend not to stick around long enough to see that played out, but I understand it now."

Michael slept on, his chest rising and falling.

Billy's brow creased. "I'm a coward," he admitted. "A coward and a selfish bastard and you should have left me to die. You never should have picked up my file at all."

His eye studied Michael, still trying to understand. Still trying to grapple with the reasons why some men stood their ground and other man ran; why some men prove their mettle in the fire and others melted.

Still trying to decide if it was too late to change.

He nodded. "But you did," he said, throat strained and protesting, but he refused to stop. "And I don't deserve it, but I'd be foolish to deny it any longer."

Because Michael had never left, and Billy had never thought if the other man actually had a choice. Ultimately, it didn't matter.

"So I'm staying," he said, the emotions churning painfully in his chest. "Now. Always. For as long as you want me."

Michael didn't reply, and Billy sighed again, eyes drifting back to the ceiling as his consciousness started to ebb. He'd stay. Until there was nothing left, he would stay.

-o-

In the time that followed, Billy found himself inexorably awake. The doctors scaled back on the painkillers, leaving Billy more uncomfortable and painfully conscious more often than not. He quickly became aware that the hazy visits from his teammates were actually well timed visits, prompt and punctual. In fact, he was surprised to find that Carson and Casey hardly left during the daytime hours, and were already on a first name basis with all the nurses in the ward.

"We're just glad the docs finally let you two camp out together," Carson said, tipping his chair back.

"We're also glad that you're not on heavy duty painkillers anymore," Casey added dourly. "You have a tendency to ramble when your faculties are compromised. I prefer you surly and petulant."

Billy managed to laugh a little. He was sitting up in bed. His leg was more cumbersome now, but having started back on real food again had done wonders for his sense of awareness. "My apologies, then," he said. "I'm afraid it takes a bit to loosen my tongue, but once it gets going, it is hard pressed to stop."

"Well, you better reteach it, then," Casey snipped. "Or I may have to break your other leg just on the principle."

Carson rolled his eyes. "I think we can spare the kid from more physical harm for the time being," he said. "I mean, he's still got months of recovery ahead of him for this little stunt."

Months. Billy was still wrapping his mind around that. Once he was fully conscious, the doctors had outline his injury and his prognosis. They'd included an explicit explanation of the damaged he'd done during his last, apparently ill-advised run. The fact was, he was lucky that they expected him to regain full mobility. A little longer and he might have destroyed the bone beyond repair.

Which also explained why it hurt so much.

But that was neither here nor there. He had more pressing concerns. Such as Michael waking up, such as Casey and Carson who seemed almost…sociable.

Maybe it was all for Michael's benefit, but there was a slow shift that Billy felt. Yes, they were still interminably mean to him. Casey insulted him and Carson made fun of him, but Billy could see the understated fear in Casey's eyes, the inexplicable trust in Carson's.

Something had changed.

Or rather, something was changing.

It was a tenuous thing, he knew. There was the possibility of something better.

The possibility of something worse.

If Michael didn't wake up…

"Kid, we told you, the docs think Michael's going to be fine," Carson said, not for the first time.

Billy startled a bit, eyes darting away from Michael guiltily.

Casey shook his head. "You saw his leg, even," he said. "It's rebounding fine."

"He'll be up and at 'em before you are," Carson said, a little gleeful.

"That much is a given," Casey said. "I'd take on a poisonous Bothrops snake any day over breaking my leg."

Carson snorted. "Not sure he had a choice in that," he muttered.

Billy worked his jaw. "Truth be told, I'd opt for neither if given my druthers," he said. "And really, they're both my fault. I'm the one who broke my leg, which is why Michael got bit in the first place."

"Yeah, and we accidentally tipped off the bad guys," Carson said. "We can play the blame game, kid. And we'll all lose."

"Besides," Casey said. "You ran for a mile with your leg being basically snapped in two. That's…impressive."

From someone else, that might have been lip service. From Casey…

Billy laughed, shocked. "Casey Malick, that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

At that, Casey's scowl deepened and he slunk low in his chair. "I've been trapped in this miserable hospital too long," he muttered. "It's deadening my senses."

Carson smirked. "He means to say, you proved yourself, man," he said. "I mean, much longer and Michael wouldn't have made it. What you did, carrying him like that?" He shook his head. "That's hero's work. You saved his life."

Billy's eyes turned to Michael. His chest felt constricted, his stomach taut. They meant it, of course. And maybe there was some truth to that.

But it was praise he didn't want. Praise he didn't need. Because the fact was, Michael had saved his life first.

Billy had just been returning the favor.

Then he looked at Carson, at Casey. Together and bantering. Like Billy was one of them.

You just have to give them time.

Billy settled back, realizing for the first time that not all consequences were bad after all.

But Michael had to wake up.

Billy's entire existence hinged like it never had before. For Billy, for Carson and Casey. For the ODS.

Michael had to wake up.

-o-

Then, Michael did.

Really, it was almost like clockwork. If Billy hadn't seen the other man lying prostrate for days on end, he might have thought the bastard had timed it that way.

But as it was, Michael woke up right after visiting hours, when Casey and Carson had gone back to the motel for the night and the doctors had just finished their rounds.

At first, Billy hardly noticed, too busy reading the only English book Carson had managed to find in the entire hospital. It was a far cry from Shakespeare, but given how hit and miss his Spanish was, it was better than nothing.

He was turning the page when he heard a movement.

He glanced to the door, expecting a nurse to come shuffling through, when he realized Michael's eyes were open.

And looking straight at him.

"Hey," Michael said, voice sounding worse than Billy. He made a face before trying again. "So, hospital?"

Billy blinked, still too shocked to speak. Because he'd been waiting and pining and hoping, and it had happened. Michael was awake. And not just awake, but alert and oriented and—

"Are you okay?" Michael asked.

Finally, Billy laughed. "You're the one who took a week to wake up."

Michael frowned, looking thoughtful. "That bad?"

Billy could only snort. He thought about the early reports, about the risk of organ failure and necrotic tissue too deep to save. He thought about the prolonged unconsciousness while Michael's body worked with the antivenin to bounce back. He thought about carrying Michael out over his shoulders.

He thought about how it almost hadn't been enough.

"Yeah," he finally managed to reply. "That bad."

"Must have been some snake," Michael mused. He turned his head, looking down at his leg. "Doesn't feel that bad."

"It's healing pretty well," Billy said. "By the time we got you here, though, your fever was at dangerous levels. So much damage…"

From the venom and the fever and everything.

Michael settled his head back down with a small shrug. "Must have kicked it by now, though," he said, nonchalant. Then his gaze fixed on Billy again. "What about you? How's the leg?"

Billy scrunched his nose in utter incredulity. "You almost died."

"Yeah, and from the look of that cast, it looks like you almost hurt your leg permanently," he said. He tilted his head critically. "We kept you off it for the most part, so how did it get so bad?"

Taken aback, Billy felt suddenly sheepish and self conscious. "Doesn't matter."

But Michael was not one to be placated. "No," he said, pushing himself up just a little. "What happened?"

Billy sighed. "I carried you out," he blurted.

Michael seemed to process that for a moment. "On that leg?"

Billy shrugged.

"That was stupid," Michael said. "You break it that badly, and you may never walk right again." He turned, searching for his call button. "We should talk to your doctor about—"

"It's fine," Billy interrupted emphatically.

Michael looked at him, dubious.

"I mean, I've got a bit of recovery ahead, but it should be fine," Billy clarified.

Michael settled down, moderately mollified. "Still stupid," he said. "You should have waited."

Before, he might have left well enough alone. But Billy wasn't aiming for well enough anymore. If he was a part of this team, he was a part of this team.

He shook his head. "No," he said flatly. "You were dying. Running was the only option."

"Casey and Carson were coming," Michael argued.

"And they would have been too late," Billy said. "Good God, man. You do realize that a single snake bite had you unconscious for a week? That you almost lost your leg? That you very nearly died because you were pissing around trying to save me?"

The outburst was more than Billy had expected, and by the end, his voice was raised and his chest was heaving. It left him spent, nervous and shaky and sweaty.

Michael, on the other bed, was frustratingly calm. For a long moment, he regarded Billy silently before nodding. "Okay."

Billy grunted, staring at Michael in disbelief. "Okay?"

Michael nodded again. "Okay."

"How the bloody hell is any of this okay?" Billy exploded.

Michael shrugged. "I knew you'd get me out."

It took Billy a moment to realize what he'd said. Then, he made a face. "What?"

"I trusted you," Michael said.

"You – wait," Billy said, trying to make sense of it. "But why?"

Michael was entirely nonplussed. "Because I've known since the beginning what you're capable of," he said. "You just needed a chance, just like the rest of us. Given that chance, you'd rise. I'd say you did that – and more."

Billy continued to stare, dumbfounded.

"Well, that and I was dying from a poisonous snakebite, so I didn't have a lot of other options at the time," Michael said. "But mostly, I knew you were a man with something to prove. And you did."

It was that simple, then. Billy never would have imagined. Everything else in his life was endlessly complicated. An interminable, impossible mess that he didn't even know how to start working out.

But with Michael, with the ODS, it was simple.

They each had their issues and their foibles. Apart, those things could destroy them.

Together…maybe they were capable of the impossible.

Billy blinked rapidly and blew out a breath, holding Michael's eye contact unyieldingly. "You sure that's enough?"

Michael's mouth quirked into a smile. Tired and pale, there was something content in his expression, knowing in his eyes. "You'd be surprised how well it's worked for us all these years."

Billy thought about Casey's faint praise, about Carson's friendly nudges. About Michael's unwavering acceptance. Yes, there were lies and pranks and insults. But there was more than that.

There was more.

What exactly, Billy wasn't sure. But he knew for a fact he wanted to stay long enough to find out.

Pressing his lips together, he smiled. "Well," he said, a little slow but increasingly certain. "Give me a few years and I think I'd like to find out for myself."

Michael's grin widened. "You got a deal."

-o-

By the time Billy was cleared to fly, his leg was still a mess. He was under strict orders to consult with an orthopedic surgeon to monitor the progress of his leg and resume an intensive therapy regimen when the cast was finally removed. He was looking at weeks of inactivity, months out of the field.

In all honesty, it was daunting. Billy wasn't one for sitting idle, so the prospect of finding himself cooped up behind a desk was not favorable.

Then again, many things about his life were not favorable. Decommissioned and deported, he was still a mess, and nearly maiming himself permanently was just another item in a long list of stupid moves.

That said, this time, he wasn't alone.

Michael had been in the hospital for a spell, though he'd been cleared to leave a few days before Billy. Even after that, the ODS had been constant visitors, manipulating the staff and keeping him well occupied if not thoroughly entertained. Michael was good at dubbing Spanish TV with nonsensical English parodies. Carson had a flair for somehow finding the best food and the prettiest nurses to bring it to them. Casey…

Well, Casey came and didn't try to kill him, which Billy counted as a win.

In all, he really wasn't alone. And if sitting at a desk wasn't favorable, realizing he had a place where he belonged really was. If the prospect of it all made him want to run, he was beginning to realize he had more reasons than ever to stay.

In the spygame. In America. With the CIA. With the ODS.

Billy may have broken his leg, but somehow with one mission, he'd healed a whole lot more than that.