Author: escribo (Dani)
Original story: Present Day AU, here and here by foxtales
Summary: Billy wasn't always so blasé about killing.
Warnings: references to violence
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit, non-commercial work of fiction using the names and likenesses of real individuals. This fictional story is not intended to imply that the events herein actually occurred, or that the attitudes or behaviors described are engaged in or condoned by the real persons whose names are used without permission.
"Saved your life, then, didn't he."
Bernard grimaced, nodded at Ian, though he wished Ian would get on with sewing up the gaping wound on Bernard's shoulder rather than carrying on as if Bernard was just in for a trim and a shave. Ian wasn't the daintiest of surgeons, but he knew how to keep his mouth shut when it counted, if not always when it was wanted, which was important enough. Bernard thought that maybe this would be his own last job, despite the medical benefits. He'd been in thirty-odd years, and this wasn't the first time he'd been shot, but he'd decided an hour ago that it would probably be the last. He was well aware that if young Boyd hadn't been there, this wouldn't even be a question; he'd be dead, and that was that.
Bernard looked at the young man, just coming into age, where he leaned against the wall chewing on his thumbnail and trying to look calm. Trying to look as if the blood didn't bother him. He'd well missed his mark, Bernard could tell. He looked nothing more than terrified. "Just a little scratch, really," Bernard said, out of practice with being compassionate but making the effort nonetheless. "I'd have barely known it was there if you hadn't pointed it out."
"Looks more than a little," Billy said as he looked first to the door then the grubby shade that covered the window before he glanced at Bernard's shoulder and Ian's indelicate work there and then skittered a little further away.
"Couple of stitches, isn't that right, Ian? And I'll be done up righter than rain." Ian looked down his long nose at Bernard and pushed his glasses back with a bloody finger, but didn't say a word. Pouring in a bit more of the rubbing alcohol, Ian ignored Bernard's hiss of Butcher and set back to work. "You look done in yerself," Bernard continued, his attention back on Billy.
"I don't know that I'm ready for this."
"A little late for that, innit, lad."
"I thought it would be different."
"Then I'm surprised with you, of all people."
If he hadn't seen the look before, Bernard might have recoiled from the revulsion that played across Billy's face. "My parents didn't die because people were shooting at them."
"I'll wager they weren't shooting back, either." Bernard's point was emphasized by the sound of Ian dropping the bullet that had been lodged in Bernard's shoulder into the glass of gin that had been serving as painkiller, turning the clear liquid red. Both Bernard and Billy turned to look first at it and then Ian as he hrumph'ed at them both.
"No," Billy finally answered, shaking his head slowly, his voice low and quiet. For a moment, he looked so much like a child in his ridiculous outfit, more like he was going to a festival rather than his first assassination, that Bernie almost relented, but he knew that there was no turning back. They were all in too deep, and there was only one direction left for any of them.
"But you know the value of life, don't you, Boyd, and that's what I meant. You know if you hadn't been there that I wouldn't be sitting here now. You also know who you thought you were saving, and it weren't me, and don't think I don't know it. I appreciate it all the same, but don't think I don't know. And if we were really taking bets, I'd say that's what has you all torn up now."
"I thought it would be different."
"Yeah, well. Real life is almost never what you expect it'll be, is it." Bernard watched as Ian lifted the now soaked towel from his arm, blanching slightly, though less so than Billy, at the sight of his ruined shirt and mangled shoulder. Folding the towel over, Ian pressed it down again and watched from beneath bushy eyebrows as Bernard settled back onto the couch. "I knew your dad, were you knowing that?"
"No," Billy said, surprised enough to be distracted from his vague horror that Bernard actually grinned.
"Good man. Good man. Wouldn't be too pleased to see what his son is becoming, I'm not going to lie to you. He was a pious man, your dad. We served together. He saved my life once, too, so that's double I owe the Boyds."
"I shouldn't have done this."
"Give us a moment, Ian?" They both waited in silence as the old surgeon gathered his tools and left the room before Bernie settled more against the threadbare pillow. "There'll be many times for you to say that in life, Billy. At least this time you can know that it was a bad man you killed, and it was truly in the service of your country."
"You're not supposed to know who hires us."
"Yeah, well." Bernie shrugged then winced, wishing that Ian hadn't sullied the gin. "You have to learn all you can, right? Protect yourself and protect your friends. It's not just pulling a trigger. It's not just being handy with a knife. Sooner or later the money--"
"I don't want the money."
"You took it already, though, didn't you. You took it and probably spent it in your mind five times over." When Billy's cheeks burned red, Bernie knew he'd hit his mark.
"I wanted to give it to Maggie. I wanted to let her, I don't know, not have to work so fucking hard for once."
"It doesn't matter what you wanted it for. Listen. I said your dad wouldn't be happy to see his only son shooting people as his trade, yeah? But he would have forgiven you. He would have."
Billy nodded but was saved from answering when the door opened and Dominic tumbled into the room.
"You look worse for the wear, Bernie."
Bernard opened his eyes to look at the Monaghan boy, looking as fresh as when they'd run into him, but Bernard caught the glance that went between him and Billy and saw the worry and relief they shared. It eased his mind a bit to know that Dominic had been affected by all that had gone on as well. Billy needed a partner, and better for them both if neither took to the life of an assassin too easily. "And you look none so. Stop by the cleaners on your way in?"
"Clean living," Dominic tossed back as he tugged on the cuffs of his button-down shirt. Bernard saw then that the fabric was splattered with blood, his own or someone else's, Bernard couldn't say, though the cuts on Dominic's knuckles gave some hint.
"Clean living, my arse. And where were you whilst I was being shot? Tippling tea with the boy out back?" Dominic didn't answer, but circled the room he'd just entered as if he couldn't wait to be gone again, and why not. "Messy job, boys. Messy job. The next time--"
"Maybe there shouldn't be a next time," Dominic tossed out, adrenaline giving way to nerves as he reached for then drew back from Billy.
"Oh, think it works like that, do you? You'll see the money in your account and someone will come 'round and tell you what a good job you've done for country and Queen, and when they come 'round the next time, you'll have forgotten everything but that. There'll be a next time, and a time after that." Suddenly tired of them both and himself as well, Bernard closed his eyes and covered them with his hand. He didn't tell them that there would come a time when they could forget all of it, when nothing seemed more important than a bit of peace.